A missing surf legend. Waterlogged clues. Can he trust his gut instincts to end the wave of murder?
Sheriff Jax Turner is learning to live again. Holding tight to the hope of reconciling with his FBI agent ex-wife, the wary man is determined to keep his focus on his coastal Oregon community. And after a concerned brother requests a welfare check, Jax is troubled to find the absent surf shop owner’s tracks lead to a pool of blood.
Now investigating a potential homicide, Turner chases a tip from his former spouse about a severed foot found on the beach. But when a torrent of leads links the victim to a politician’s son, a jealous competitor, and a get-straight program for youth, the steadfast lawman fears layers of lies and secret agendas will keep him from stopping a vicious killer.
Can he unravel the fatal agenda before he’s the next corpse to wash ashore?
If you like flawed heroes, gritty crimes, and dark twists and turns, then you’ll love Deadly Tides, the chilling second book in Mary Keliikoa’s Misty Pines Mystery Series.
Praise for Deadly Tides:
“Keliikoa has crafted a page-turning second installment….An intense and satisfying whodunit.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“In this atmospheric second entry in her Misty Pines series, Mary Keliikoa has crafted a taut, small-town police procedural with a fine cast of compelling characters. Deadly Tides is a marvelously labyrinthine mystery that lays bare the tortured nature of a spirit driven to murder. That alone would be enough to recommend it. But it’s also a poignant exploration of loss and the difficult journey that leads to healing. In the crime genre, that’s a rare and beautiful accomplishment.” ~ William Kent Krueger, author of Fox Creek and This Tender Land
“In Mary Keliikoa’s Deadly Tides, a small seaside town can be murder. A perfect blend of a twisty whodunnit and a heartbreaking examination of loss and love, Deadly Tides is a thrilling continuation of this new series!” ~ Rachel Howzell Hall, best-selling novelist of We Lie Here and These Toxic Things
“Fantastic! A severed foot, a pool of blood, a missing man, and an expanding web of suspects in the small Oregon town of Misty Pines. Sheriff Jax Turner sure has his hands full. Mary Keliikoa’s “Deadly Tides” is as taut as a drum, a real page-turner with a propulsive climax that’ll have you literally holding your breath. Loved it.” ~ Tracy Clark, author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series and the Det. Harriet Foster series
Genre: Police Procedural, Psychological Suspense Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: October 2023 Number of Pages: 299 ISBN: 9781685122799 (ISBN10: 1685122795) Series: Misty Pines Mystery, #2 Book Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
Abby Kanekoa rolled through town in her Prius, searching the empty streets and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. Stonebridge Assisted Living Center had called an hour ago to let her know her mother, Dora Michaels, had walked away. Again.
It was early January on the Oregon coast. There’d been no substantial rainfall for several days. The chilly mist-filled winds had come through that morning, though, and the center couldn’t say exactly when her mother had slipped out their door. Time to put a better lock on that thing. Mom might not be drenched to the bone, but she’d be cold.
Thankfully, this was Abby’s scheduled day off. Not that the FBI didn’t work with her regardless. After her daughter, Lulu, died of leukemia, they’d brought her back to the team as if she’d never left. They understood her bad days. Same since her divorce. Despite what Jax thought about how she’d handled her grief, burying herself in her work and having the support of the Bureau had saved her more than once.
Especially the flex schedule. With her mother’s early onset of Alzheimer’s, it allowed for these occasional searches.
Or not so occasional, as it were. Mom had escaped three times this month.
Greenery and garland from the holidays still clung to the streetlamps on Misty Pines’ main strip. But she had yet to catch a glimmer of her mother’s fiery red hair. At a crawl, Abby glanced inside each of the storefronts. Last time, she’d found her mother at the donut counter picking out an apple fritter.
“Honey’s favorite,” she’d repeated all the way to the car, her hand gripping a white bag full of them.
Abby’s Hawaiian father—“Honey,” as her mother had called him—had treated the family to fritters every Saturday morning since Abby could remember. He’d died twenty years ago, but Abby had continued the tradition with her own family until Lulu died, and it became too painful. Today, the donut shop’s seats and barstools were empty.
On Scholls Ferry Road, kids played on the swings and monkey bars of the elementary school. The time before the donut shop, Abby had found Mom by the cyclone fence, her fingers clenching the metal lattice, watching the kindergarten class play kickball. They both cried as Abby drove her back to the facility. Alzheimer’s had been brutal to her mother, stealing much of her mind. But memories of Lulu were ingrained, even deeper than those of Abby; Dora often gazed at her like they’d never met.
Abby pulled in front of the bookstore, ignoring the pang in her chest. Emily Krueger greeted her from behind the counter, sorting a new shipment of novels with bare-chested men and women in flowing gowns on their covers.
Abby explained the situation.
“I haven’t seen your mom. But I’ll call if I do.” Emily reached a hand across the counter and squeezed Abby’s forearm. Emily had endured the disappearance of her own daughter a few months ago. If anyone understood Abby’s concern, Emily did.
“Thank you. I’m sure she’s just out picking flowers or….” Or what? Where did a sixty-four-year-old woman wander to? What was she looking for when she left the warm confines of the assisted living home into the cool and murky outdoors?
“Maybe she’s folding laundry,” Emily said.
Abby chuckled despite her worry. During the summer, Dora had strolled into the laundromat down the road to fold a stranger’s tighty-whities. But that’s also why fear prickled Abby’s spine now. Dora stuck to the downtown area when she walked off.
Why not this time?
Abby slid back into her car and dialed Trudy at the sheriff’s station.
“No reports about your mom have come in today,” Trudy said.
“You’ll call if one does?”
“Certainly, hon. And I’ll let Jax know.”
Jax. Abby stretched her neck. “Don’t bother him. If needed, I’ll call him later.”
“Uh oh. I thought you two had decided to work on your relationship.”
“We’ve been so busy and….” Abby trailed off. She didn’t have a good reason for why things hadn’t progressed between them, only that she was to blame.
“It’ll work itself out,” Trudy said. “You’ve both been through a lot.”
Abby gnawed on her thumbnail. “Yeah. You’re right.”
“Have you checked the ocean parks?”
“Next on my list.”
Abby accelerated out of town, tension growing in her shoulders. It shouldn’t be so easy for residents to walk out of an assisted living center. In truth, she was more annoyed with herself that Dora had to be there in the first place.
But Abby had to work and couldn’t give her mom the full-time care she needed. Better facilities could be found in Portland, those focused on memory diseases, but they were a couple-hour drive. At least when her mom walked off from Stonebridge, she couldn’t get far, and Abby was close enough to hop in her car to search. She’d been in law enforcement long enough to know those thirty to sixty minutes could make all the difference.
A fact she was being reminded of today and another source of frustration. Abby hadn’t caught the call on her phone when the staff at Stonebridge first reached out this morning. It took three attempts. She’d been in the shower shaving her legs, of all things. As if anyone would notice.
Abby turned into the boat basin. She cruised through the parking lot, noting the fishing boats rocking dockside. She scanned each of them, spotting a crew of fishermen getting ready to brave the bar, but no redheads traversed the area.
Next, she headed out Ocean Drive, turning onto Meddle Road a couple of miles later. The route led to the ocean and was miles from the facility. Too far for Dora to wander? She’d been gone for half a day. If motivated, she could have made it this far. Abby’s hands tightened on the wheel. Thick mist had rolled in and hung in the sky. The temperature had dipped.
She swung her car into the abandoned beach parking lot and got out. Wind whistled past her as she crested the top of the lot and scanned the shore. The sand blasted against her pant legs with hollow pops and stung her face. She lowered the sunglasses from the top of her head onto her eyes and wrapped her jacket tighter as the cool air bit through the thin fabric.
Where are you, Mom?
Seagulls squawked overhead, catching the drafts. A few landed near the surf, arguing over an empty Styrofoam container. Aside from birds, though, the beach was empty. Only rocks stood sentinel offshore, water eddying around them. This was too far south of one of the surfing beaches and too far north of the other. No place to crab or fish here either. Summer had long passed for tourists to visit, except for the random one or two that had lost their way and stumbled upon the place. The local morning beachcombers had already come and gone, likely sipping coffee in front of a warm fire by now.
Abby’s focus drifted to the tree lined cliffs in the distance. Some trees had fallen, catapult and hapless, onto the dunes. Other had come in on the tide. Abby scanned the area for signs of her mother. That’s when she saw the splash of red rising from a row of logs near the sandy ridge.
Whatever was there had hunkered down. Hiding?
Mom. Abby raced down the hill, the soft white sand sucking at her practical flats. She gave up and kicked them aside. Fifty yards farther, she hit the hardpack and sprinted, the wind at her back. As she drew closer, another flash of red provided certainty that it was hair flapping in the wind.
“Mom, is that you?” Abby hollered.
She slowed her pace to a walk as she approached. The woman was dressed in a nightgown and hunched like a turtle with only her back showing. Shaking. Her red hair, streaked in gray, whipped upward. My god. She was whimpering.
Abby’s heart pounded. Her mother must be freezing.
She almost ran again but it was always best to approach Dora in the same manner she’d approach a small child. Or a suspect.
“Mom?” she said again. Still no response. If she was deep in her illness, the word might not register. “Dora?”
Her mother lifted her head. “It’s mine.”
Abby blew out a long, weary sigh. She’d found Dora—alive and talking. That’s what mattered. Slipping out of her jacket, Abby draped it over her mom before sitting on the log next to her.
“You sure came a long way.” Abby gazed out at the water. Relief at finding her mother unharmed whooshed through her like the breeze around them. Her heartbeat found its steady rhythm. “How about we get someplace warm and dry? Pancakes sound good, don’t they? Let’s find some hot pancakes and drench them in real maple syrup. You’d love that, right?”
“Okay. But I want to take it with me. I found it.”
Her mother had probably discovered some unique shell or glass fishing float. Whatever she’d found, she could keep. Abby would help her display it in her room. “Sure, Mom.”
Dora straightened, and Abby’s stomach twisted at the sight of the blood saturating the front of her mother’s white gown.
“Are you okay?” Abby said, her voice inching up.
Then she saw the source of the blood.
In her hands, she held a tennis shoe containing a severed foot.
Excerpt from DEADLY TIDES by Mary Keliikoa. Copyright 2023 by Mary Keliikoa. Reproduced with permission from Mary Keliikoa. All rights reserved.
Author Guest Post
WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW—OR?by Mary Keliikoa
Have you heard the adage—write what you know? When I first started writing, it was advice that I heard quite often. And I can’t disagree. There is wisdom to that…and makes that first draft a bit easier when parts of it don’t require a lot of research. I also believe, however, that writing what you want to learn about, understand, or what fascinates you, can add richness to a story.
When I sat down to write the first book in the Misty Pines mystery series, HIDDEN PIECES, I decided that there’d be many aspects about the series that I wanted to be familiar with. One such aspect was the setting—the Oregon coast. My parents moved my family there to a small trailer park in Hammond, Oregon when I was 2.
While I don’t remember much about those early years, by the time I reached the age of five, many things about that coast stuck: the mist and the cool weather that never seemed to end and that permeated our clothes was near the top. But also, the moss laden trees in the towering forests. The hum of the ocean waves reverberating in the air. The sheer rock cliffs and violent eddies at their base. The call of the seagulls overhead, the bark of sea lions on the rocks, and the brackish smell of seaweed.
I also recall the people that live in coastal towns. The family-like atmosphere where everyone knows your business. That you can’t go outside without waving to a neighbor. That the worry lines on the face of a fisherman’s wife don’t soften until he’s safely back across the bar. That fish and chips and beer are necessary fare when gathering to tell tall fish tales at the local gathering hole.
I know the intriguing items that wash up along the ocean beaches, which was an absolute treat for the treasure hunter in me. From glass fishing floats and sand dollars, to various creatures in the tidal pools, I could spend hours running along the ocean shores.
Setting I knew, so in my first book, I focused on what I wanted to understand—grief and the desperate need for redemption. In Hidden Pieces I focused on using a true crime that happened in my hometown where two girls went out walking and a car stopped. One girl never made it home. I wanted to explore how an individual might cope with a tragedy in their life…or perhaps not cope so well. I used that as the backdrop.
In DEADLY TIDES, the second book in the series that is out now, I went another direction. I was interested in a phenomenon that has occurred with some regularity in the Pacific Northwest: severed feet washing ashore.
Crazy enough, the event has been occurring for quite some time. As to who they belong to, sadly, most have been victims of accidents, and some due to suicide. However, I write mystery with a dose of suspense, so of course I leaned into a more nefarious cause.
Which brings me back to the why those feet were washing ashore—and understanding what drives someone to such a gruesome act. And that led me back to that element of grief.
Whether it’s my main character, or what drives the antagonists in my stories, I look to understand how grief can change a person. Sometimes it takes them to the edge, questioning their own existence. Sometimes it has them acting out in a way that they would not otherwise. Sometimes grief morphs into bitterness and erodes an individual’s very core.
I explore this in my books because it is a subject that I am familiar with…but want to understand. And here’s what I’ve learned.
Grief is a pesky neighbor that shows up at one’s window unannounced and knocks insidiously until it’s let in. There’s always the option to hide—close the window shade and pretend not to be home. But at some point, you have to come outside. And grief, like that neighbor, will be waiting. Sometimes it’s best to just let them in because they aren’t going anywhere—and one might as well learn to live peaceably next door to it.
And that is something I am doing every day – learning to live in peace with it. Because the alternative could be dire…at least that’s the direction I take in my novels. Like those feet, which thankfully I never ran across, severed or otherwise, when out beachcombing as a kid, or as an adult.
Now that I have a better understanding of grief…I’m on the lookout for the next thing to understand that fascinates me that I can weave into my next story. I have a feeling it won’t be a problem!
Eighteen years in the legal field, and an over-active imagination, led Pacific NW native Mary Keliikoa to start writing mystery and suspense. She is the author of the award-winning HIDDEN PIECES and DEADLY TIDES, both part of the Misty Pines mystery series, the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series including the multi-award nominated DERAILED for best debut, and the upcoming stand-alone DON’T ASK, DON’T FOLLOW out Summer of 2024. She’s also had short stories in Woman’s World and the anthology, Peace, Love, and Crime.
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