As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours, I recently had the pleasure of reading Old Bones Never Die, the fifth book in the Eve Appel Mystery series. It was my first time reading a book by this author; it probably won’t be the last.
Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear.
Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator.
Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined.
I really enjoyed this book. I found Eve to be likable, spunky and determined and she is surrounded by an amazingly diverse cast of family and friends, including an energetic and loving grandmother, her Native American friends and romantic interest, to a Mafia mob boss, and a close friend who happens to be a police officer. And they all rally around to help her solve the case. It was a light, fast moving read, with enough suspense to keep you turning the pages. The solution to the mystery was not predictable (always a plus), and the story came to a satisfying solution. I also enjoyed the glimpse into Miccosukee heritage and the descriptions of Southern Florida, with its swamps, weather and wildlife. And kudos to the author for the subtle education of readers regarding issues surrounding construction and Native American burial grounds.
Note: Although this book is part of a series, it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. This was my first time reading anything by this author.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.
Old Bones Don’t Die is available on Amazon.
(An excerpt appears near the end of this post.)
About the Author
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.
She is the author of a number of mystery series (Microbrewing Series, Big Lake Mystery Series, Eve Appel Mystery Series and the Laura Murphy Mysteries), a standalone mystery (Angel Sleuth) and numerous short stories.
Connect with Lesley:
- Website: www.lesleyadiehl.com
- Blog: www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog
- Twitter: @lesleydiehl
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lesley.diehl.1
An Excerpt from Old Bones Never Die
The morning air was cold, but once the sun rose over the levee, its heat penetrated the construction site and brought with it the humidity of south central Florida. The backhoe operator paused to remove his sweatshirt and push his thick, black hair away from his face, then moved the levers of the machine forward so that the mouth of the bucket opened, showing its large metal teeth. Another move of the lever lowered the bucket. The teeth bit into the black dirt of the Big Lake basin.
The operator felt the assessing gaze of the foreman, who stood at the side of the pit, his hardhat pushed back on his forehead. New to the job, Walter Egret was skilled, but he knew he’d been hired by the company against the foreman’s wishes. As a Miccosukee, his work would be scrutinized more closely than that of others employed by Coastal Development Company and its construction arm, Gator Way. The foreman’s constant surveillance bothered him, but not as much as the feeling that someone else watched him from the cover of the sabal palms that stood at the edge of the property. He’d felt a shadowy presence there for several days. It was probably nothing, but today he would take a walk over to the trees during his lunch break.
This land now being readied for a sportsman’s retreat had once belonged to his people, but legal maneuvering by slick lawyers deeded it away from the tribe into the developers’ hands. Walter didn’t like to think about that too much. Being a backhoe operator was a job, a way for him to support his three boys. He dumped the bucket of dirt and maneuvered the machine back to bite the earth again. This time the bucket picked up debris lighter colored than the soil. Probably some buried tree limbs, he thought, halting the rise of the bucket. Huh. Looked like bones from some animal, maybe a cow. Lotta bones.
“Hey, dump that back in the hole. What the hell have we got?” shouted the foreman.
Walter did as he was told and deposited the bucket load back in the area he’d dug. He shut down the backhoe, and both he and the foreman jumped into the hole to take a closer look.
“Oh, damn,” said the foreman, “look at that.” He pointed at a round object, dull and gray, lying in the dirt. “I think we’ve got ourselves a burial ground. I gotta make a call.”
The foreman climbed out of the hole and walked away, his cell in his hand.
Walter continued to stare at the object. A skull. Those were human bones. Maybe the bones of one of his people. Bending over to get a closer look, he saw a metal object buried in the loose dirt. He pulled it out, brushing the soil off what turned out to be a heavy gold chain. At the end of the chain swung a pocket watch. It looked like one he dimly remembered seeing when he was a child.
“Get the hell out of there. Don’t move anything.” The foreman’s face was red and shiny with sweat, not from exertion but something else—fear, maybe? “You find something?”
Walter’s fist closed around the watch. “No. Just more bones.”
“Yeah. Well, we got to shut down and notify the authorities. That damn Indian grave stuff.”
“The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” Walter said.
The foreman shot him an angry look. “Real wiseass, aren’t you? Well, I don’t know when we can begin work again, so you’re out of a job for now.” His words seemed to suggest it was Walter’s fault the job had to be halted.
The foreman hesitated, then added, as if embarrassed by his earlier accusatory tone, “Well, you seem to know your way around machinery, so you’ll probably hear from us.” He grunted a goodbye and turned toward his pickup truck, which stood parked near the palm tree grove. “You go on, now. I’ll wait here for the authorities.” Walter watched him climb into his truck and start it up. He knew the foreman would sit there in air-conditioned luxury until someone showed up.
As he began his five mile walk home, Walter envied the man the cool air. His old Ford truck wouldn’t start this morning, so he’d had to walk to work, and he was spectacularly unsuccessful at thumbing a ride. No one wanted to pick up a Miccosukee in work clothes and beat-up work boots unless it was some other tribe member. The morning’s walk hadn’t been so bad because it was cool. Now the midday sun beat down on his head. He pulled a strip of leather from his pocket and tied his long hair back. Once well away from the construction site, he stopped and took the watch from his pocket. It was battered and scraped; a long gash on the back told him one of the bucket’s teeth had gouged it. He wiped away the dirt on his jeans to reveal a plumed wading bird etched on the cover face. He tried to pry open the case, but wasn’t successful. He knew that if he did, he’d find an inscription inside. He was certain this was the watch his mother had given his father as a birthday present.
Finally the mystery was solved. He’d found his father. After so much time. Grandfather was right. The swamp had returned him. He had to call Sammy. Sammy would want to know, and Sammy would know what to do.
He had no cellphone, but he couldn’t wait until he got home to call. He’d have to stop at the Dusty Boot, a biker’s bar up the road a mile, and use the phone there. He quickened his pace despite the heat. Once in the cool darkness of the bar, he grabbed a stool and asked for a coke. Remembering he’d left his lunch in the backhoe, he ordered a ham sandwich.
There was no payphone in the bar, so while he waited for his sandwich to arrive, he asked the bartender if he could borrow the house phone.
“It’s really important. A local call.”
The bartender, a woman with teased blonde hair, a spaghetti strap top, and two full sleeves of tattoos hesitated, but once she’d looked around the empty bar, she shoved the phone his way. “I ain’t supposed to let ya, so be quick and don’t tell no one.”
The call connected to Grandfather and Sammy’s answering machine.
“Sammy? I need to see you tonight. I found Father’s watch on a body we unearthed at the construction site today. I think the body is Father’s.”
The bartender brought Walter his sandwich, which he ate slowly, savoring every bite of the dry white bread and fatty ham concoction. Walter was happy. Now he knew what had happened to his father. Now he could bring Father home to rest.
The car hit Walter Egret a mile down the road from the Dusty Boot. Two men stepped out of the black SUV and approached the body.
“Do it,” the man in the suit said to the other.
The other man, short, ferret-faced, and dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt, searched the body. “Not much money, no cellphone, cheap wallet, and this.” He held up the pocket watch.
“Nothing we should worry about, I guess. Leave it all. We want this to look like an accident.” The man in the suit got back into the car. He didn’t see the other man pocket the watch.
The driver spoke into his cell. “We cleaned everything up here. We’ll finish it later.”