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Diamondback [A Taylor Madison Mystery]
by Elizabeth Dearl

Category: Mystery/Crime Scribes World Reviewer's Choice Award Winner, EPIC eBook Award Finalist
Description: When novelist Taylor Madison discovers a mysterious letter among her late mother's effects, she heads for West Texas in search of her father's identity. But small, sleepy towns don't appreciate rude awakenings and Taylor soon finds herself up to her neck in rattlesnakes and long-kept secrets--a deadly combination.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: April 2005


35 Reader Ratings:
Great Good OK Poor
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [323 KB]
Words: 76868
Reading time: 219-307 min.

"I thoroughly enjoyed this first Taylor Madison Mystery. After heading for Perdue, a small west Texas town, in search of her father's identity, Taylor finds herself thrust into a passel of rattlesnakes, not all of which slither on their bellies. Diamondback is a fast paced, couldn't-put-it-down mystery that I read in one sitting and I was sorry to see it end. Bravo! If you have an aversion to snakes, this book will give you a very bad case of the creepy crawlies, so be warned. I'll keep an eye out for more in this series."--Elizabeth Henze for Murder Express Reviews

"Who would have thought rattlesnakes could be funny and entertaining? But in Dearl's hands, the rattlesnakes and the ferret steal the show. With lots of rattlesnake lore, plenty of comic relief, and a generous dose of attitude, I couldn't put Diamondback down. I highly recommend it."--Cindy Penn for Wordweaving Reviews

"Ms. Dearl populates Perdue, Texas with quirky individuals and brings them to life with crisp dialogue, seasoned with a touch of West Texan drawl. Taylor drives an old Volkswagen Bug and carries her ferret around in her backpack. Sheriff Crawford, the perfect small town sheriff, longs for another man's wife. His deputy, Cal Arnette, looks like a gangbanger, but is really a law school dropout searching for justice. Add an eighty-five year old, chain-smoking clerk who runs the town council, and you have an idea of the people you're apt to meet in this charming book. Set against the backdrop of a West Texan rattlesnake festival, Diamondback is an enthralling and well-plotted mystery. Ms. Dearl weaves clues deftly throughout the story, leading the reader to a climax that will surprise and satisfy even the most jaded mystery lover. On every level, Diamondback is a delight. I give it my highest recommendation."--Carrie S. Masek, Scribes World Reviews

Chapter One

MY VOLKSWAGEN WHEEZED in weary protest as it encountered yet another rise in the road. Houston's terrain is as flat as a sheet of paper, not counting a man-made incline or two on the freeway system, and the ancient little car was never going to forgive me for introducing it to the hills of west Texas. The transmission groaned as I downshifted and began the climb, my ears popping from the slight change in altitude.

On the passenger seat, my backpack stirred and Hazel presented a quivering nose.

"Not dinner time yet," I informed her, and the nose withdrew, twitching in disgust.

The setting sun shimmered against the asphalt, glancing off the beer cans and tin foil strewn along the roadside. This section of highway evidently hadn't been "adopted" by any civic-minded group. I was beginning to wonder if anyone beside me even knew it existed. It had been at least an hour since I'd passed another car.

I had made an interesting discovery during my five hundred mile journey. Desolate stretches of road had a charismatic effect on my right foot. The lonelier the landscape, the harder my foot pressed the accelerator, as if to hurry me back to human companionship. The two speeding tickets in my glove compartment convinced me that cops out here in the boonies had discovered the phenomenon long ago, and made use of it to pad the coffers of tiny towns with names like Rising Star and Pancake.

A sign flashed by:

PERDUE 10 Miles

LUBBOCK 54 Miles

Lubbock is farm land, as flat as Houston, and it amazed me that Perdue was surrounded by craggy hills, rising out of nowhere with startling suddenness.

I nudged the backpack and a tiny black nose emerged inquiringly. "Tell me something, Hazel. Have I lost my mind? Why am I doing this?"

She yawned.

"Never mind. Go back to sleep."

Floor it, suggested a reasonable little voice inside my head. Just keep on going right through Perdue, all the way to Lubbock. You can sell this old rattletrap for a few hundred, hop on a plane…

"Sell my car?" I shouted. The voice had overstepped its bounds. I had worked odd jobs all the way through high school to earn the money for my precious VW, and I'd keep it long enough to be buried in it, if I had my way. It had been my graduation gift to myself, and buying a used car had left enough money to pay for my first semester at U of H. So what if it was fourteen years old? I patted the dashboard fondly. It had, in fact, been my only graduation present. Mom hadn't even bothered to show up at the ceremony.

Something long and dark slithered into the road ahead, and I reacted before I realized what it was. Jerking the steering wheel sharply to the right, I stomped on the brake. The car careened sideways into the ditch that constituted the road's shoulder, and lurched to a halt. A cloud of red dust billowed up through the rust holes in the floorboard. I coughed. Hazel sneezed.

Still shaking, I turned in the seat to peer behind me. The snake was squirming into a tangle of brush on the opposite side of the road.

"Lovely countryside," I muttered, and turned the key.

The engine stuttered and caught, sounding as cranky as I felt, but that was as far as the matter went. The steering wheel moved awkwardly and apparently no longer held any influence over the tires.

I squinted through the bug-smeared windshield. Straight ahead, a large sign informed me that I had reached: Perdue City Limits, Pop. 2,948.

"Well, at least we made it to our destination," I told Hazel, who sneezed again. Gathering my backpack and windbreaker, I stepped out into the red dust.

Copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Dearl

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