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Sunday 20 September 2015

☀ A Judgment of Whispers: Mary Crow [7] - Sallie Bissell

Thank you for joining us for our special spotlight on A Judgment of Whispers, a Suspense Novel by (, Midnight Ink, 360 pages).

This is the seventh book in the Mary Crow series.

Check out the book's synopsis and the excerpt below, as well as our Q&A with author Sallie Bissell.

PREVIEW: Read the first chapter with Amazon Look Inside.

Synopsis | Teaser | The Series | Author Q&A | About the Author |


Whispers abound at the ancient Spanish Oak. To those who know how to listen, it tells secrets of vanquished conquistadors, Cherokee witches, and the long-unsolved murder of Teresa Ewing. Whispers also thrive in the town of Hartsville—rumors that Teresa's killer still walks free.

While running for District Attorney, Mary Crow finds the whispers starting to swirl around her. Did one of her friends cover up that twenty-year-old murder? Does her campaign have blood on its hands? As new evidence is discovered, Mary realizes that the only way to save her reputation is to find the true killer and silence the vicious gossip that has trapped so many people in a web of rumors and lies.

Teaser: Excerpt


     It came into his bedroom unbidden, through the screen of his open window. At first he rolled over and pulled the covers to his ears, thinking it was a dream. But then it came again— a sound, a smell, a shadow that flitted across the field of moonlight that puddled on his sheets. It was all of those and none of those. It was something he hadn’t felt in a long time.
      He reached— a habit of fifty-two years— for his wife. But Jan’s side of the bed was empty, her sheets cool. Minnesota, he remembered. Jan is in Minnesota now. I’m in charge of the cat and the chickens.
      He turned his back to the window, deciding that whatever he’d felt had been just the strangeness of Jan not sleeping beside him. Then it came again— unidentifiable, inadmissible in a court of law, but there nonetheless. For some reason, he thought of his daughter Lisa, rehearsing her role as the second witch in a college production of Macbeth: By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.
      He sat up, studied his thumbs. They seemed all right. A breeze fluttered the sheer curtains, making them puff out like ghosts. He got up and went to the window. The half moon was low, about to sink behind a thick bank of clouds. In the dimness he could see his garden, the two rows of corn standing like sentinels guarding the squash and tomatoes. Faraway he heard a menacing growl of thunder.
      “Just a storm,” he whispered. “Nothing to worry about.”
      And yet he knew it was more than rain. It was a sense of something returning. He could smell it, thick as the ozone wafting in from the south. As lightning sparked and turned the cloud bank a sick shade of yellow, he realized what it was. Something wicked did this way come.

      It scared him so badly that he threw on his robe and went into the kitchen. He turned on the lights and put on a pot of coffee, the cat brushing against his legs, mewing for its breakfast. Though he usually considered the furniture-clawing Ivan a pain in the ass, at that moment he was glad to have his company. He was something warm, something alive.
      “You want chicken or tuna?” he asked, peering at the cans of cat food Jan had left in the pantry.
      Ivan did not indicate a preference, just kept yowling. He opened a can of tuna and scraped it into his bowl. The cat took one bite then stalked off into the den, its rigid tail an exclamation point of disdain.
      “Must have guessed wrong,” he said. He considered opening another can, perhaps the chicken, but decided against it. He’d grown up on a farm, where cats lived in barns, fending for themselves. He couldn’t imagine any of them turning down a can of anything.
      He poured a cup of coffee. This early the morning news would be nothing but a rehash of the night before, so he went into the little bedroom Jan had turned into his study. Mostly he just kept his junk— the golf clubs he used weekly, a treadmill he never used at all. In the corner stood a desk that sported his old nameplate— Jack Wilkins, Detective, Pisgah County Sheriff’s Department.
      He sat down, turned on the light, and looked at the array of mementos piled on the desk. A couple of citations for valor, a news photo of him comforting a child whose mother had survived a bad wreck, and his gold detective badge leaning against the lamp. “Those were the days,” he whispered.
      Mostly, he’d done okay. Though he’d taken two bullets (one in the upper arm, no big deal; the other in his calf, which pained him to this day), he’d cleared thirty years’ worth of cases and slept untroubled by the people he’d sent to prison. There was only one case that still haunted him— that would, he guessed, haunt him until the day he died. Teresa Ewing— a little ten-year-old girl who’d gone out to deliver a casserole to a neighbor and never returned. Or never returned alive, at least. Had the memory of Teresa Ewing awakened him? Had something to do with that case come back?
      He hesitated before he unlocked his bottom drawer. The case had become an issue between him and Jan. He, along with everybody else in Pisgah County, had grown obsessed with it. Teresa Ewing had taken up residence in the back of his mind, and he often found himself thinking about the dead girl when he should have been thinking of his alive and very pretty wife. Jan had finally given him an ultimatum: that case or her. He had, wisely, chosen her, but he had never thrown his case files away. Sometimes when Jan was out shopping or having lunch with friends, he would sneak in here and touch the locked drawer, as if it held some memento of a wildly extravagant affair. Today, though, it seemed like more than just visiting an old obsession. Today something felt changed.
      He unlocked the drawer and took out the tattered, coffee-stained file. For an instant he hesitated, like a sober alcoholic weighing the cost of just one drink, then he started turning the pages, reading the reports, looking at pictures of himself when his stomach was flat and his hair was the color of sand instead of snow. And the girl … the little girl.

      Two hours later he closed the file. Though the thunder growled more loudly, he hurried to put on his clothes. He needed light, human voices, the bustle of normalcy. He got in his car and drove to the Waffle House, an early morning stop for tourists and truckers and retirees like himself. Today the place was mostly empty, the weather, he guessed, keeping everyone in their own kitchens. His favorites were at their duty stations— Mike scrambling eggs on the grill, Linda shouting orders like a drill sergeant. They knew he’d been a cop; both called him Chief, though officially he’d never risen higher than Detective.
      “Don’t tell me you’re playing golf today, Chief.” Linda frowned. Outside, the yellow sky had turned a sickly ochre.
      “No, just woke up early and couldn’t sleep.” Couldn’t sleep or wouldn’t sleep? How did that old song go?
      “Aw.” She was already pouring him a cup of coffee. “Mrs. Chief out of town?”
      “Minnesota with the grandkids.” He smiled at her perceptiveness. “How’d you guess?”
      “You got that hubby-at-loose-ends look about you. You want your regular?”
      Usually he came for a breakfast hamburger before he played nine holes at the municipal course. Today, though, was different. “No, I think I’ll have eggs. Over easy, with sausage.”
      Linda raised a penciled-on eyebrow. “No hamburger? Chief, are you hungover? Mike’s got some hair of the dog, if that’ll help.”
      He laughed; he hadn’t had a drink in years. “No, I’m okay. Just in the mood for eggs.”
      “I’ll fix you the special and charge you for the regular,” she whispered as she put a spoon and napkin down beside his cup. “You’ll get a free waffle.”
      He sipped his coffee. He was admiring Mike’s ability to fry bacon, cook waffles, and scramble eggs all at the same time when he felt someone put an arm around his shoulder. He looked up as Irving Stubbs slid onto the seat beside him.
      “No golf today, eh, Jack?” Irving was his next-door neighbor, and, like him, retired. Unlike him, Irving had been an accountant and a member of the chamber of commerce.
      “Not unless we play in swim trunks.” Jack looked over his shoulder. Cars were now traveling with their lights on, as if it were midnight instead of 8 a.m.
      “I hate days like today,” Irving grumbled as Linda poured him a cup of coffee. “You wake up early, then you look outside and realize you got nowhere to go.”
      “Can’t you go back to sleep?” asked Jack.
      “My eyes open at 6: 17 regardless. Been that way since the day I turned seventy.”
      Linda put Jack’s order, along with his free waffle, down in front of him. Stubbs ordered hash browns and eggs.
      “You boys cheer up,” she told them. “This might blow over by noon.”
      Jack made a little sandwich— sausage on a piece of toast, covered by an egg, finished off with a splash of Tabasco. As he ate, Irving grew chatty, asking if he and Jan had vacation plans, were they going to the Rotary Club picnic, had they seen the new play in Flat Rock. Jack answered in monosyllables, his thoughts returning to Teresa Ewing’s sad, thick file. Finally he wiped his mouth with his napkin.
      “You were here in 1989, weren’t you?”
      “We moved here in ’86,” Irving replied. “Why?”
      “Oh, just woke up thinking about some old cases I’d worked on. You remember Teresa Ewing?”
      “That little girl who was killed over on Salola Street? I was talking about that poor little thing not a week ago.”
      “I remember her.” Linda paused as she refilled their coffee cups. “I worked at the Donut Den then. We went on double shifts to keep the volunteers in crullers. I bet we passed out five thousand donuts.” She gave Jack an odd look. “You work that case, Chief?”
      He nodded.
      She put the coffee pot down and leaned close. “So, who do you think did it?”
      “I don’t know,” he said softly.
      “Remember how one psychic said she was in water? And then another one said two men had taken her to Winslow, Arizona?”
      “We got a lot of false leads.”
      Linda went on. “After all the psychics crapped out, everybody decided that big retarded boy killed her.”
      “It was a tough case.”
      Mike looked over his shoulder, eavesdropping from the grill. “They got any new leads?”
      Jack emptied his coffee. “Not that I know of. It’s still a real cold case.” “And somebody got away with murder,” said Irving. Jack stood up and left enough money to cover his breakfast and Linda’s usual two-dollar tip. He said good-bye to Irving and headed for the door, back out into a morning that looked like midnight, his left thumb suddenly twitching like mad.

A Judgment of Whispers 
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The Series: Mary Crow

Click on the book cover to Look Inside the book on Amazon and read an excerpt.

In the Forest of Harm [1]

Three women embark on a hellish journey in this electrifying novel of survival and friendship.

Mary “Killer” Crow, the toughest young Cherokee prosecutor in Georgia, is heading home to North Carolina. There she plans to visit her mother’s grave and hike with her two closest friends on the beautiful yet demanding wilderness trail she loved as a child.

But Mary has made a deadly enemy. Her most recent courtroom victory spurs a killer into tracking her through the wild, obsessed with wreaking his vengeance. And he’s not the only predator stalking Mary and her friends through the merciless mountain terrain. Pushed to the limits of their endurance, these three women discover a capacity for loyalty—and for violence—they never dreamed possible.

Filled with unexpected twists and gut-wrenching suspense, In the Forest of Harm pulls you through a labyrinth of psychological terror and keeps the thrills coming until the very end.

[Published 1 June 2014, 400 pages. First published 2 October 2001 by Bantam.]

A Darker Justice [2]

When Assistant District Attorney Mary Crow is called back from Atlanta to her childhood home of Little Jump Off, North Carolina, she discovers that the murder of three federal judges is a matter both professional and personal.

Suspecting that the killings are the work of a skilled assassin, Mary and FBI agent Daniel Safer are desperate to protect Judge Irene Hannah, the next suspected target and Mary’s oldest friend and mentor.

[Published 1 August 2014, 320 pages. First published 29 October 2002 by Bantam.]

Call the Devil by His Oldest Name [3]

Out of the Darkness. Into the Fire . . .

Haunted by the death of her mother, assistant district attorney Mary Crow is obsessed with finding the man who holds the key to this tragedy.

When that same man kidnaps her infant goddaughter, Mary is certain: the nightmare is beginning again. Following clues left along the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Mary’s only chance to save her goddaughter is to hunt the kidnapper in a lethal game of cat-and-mouse. As lives crack and crumble around her, Mary must face a violent mystery in her family’s past . . . and a killer who could be mistaken for the very devil himself.

Call the Devil By His Oldest Name is a tour de force of relentless suspense and heart-stopping menace that will leave you breathless.

[Published 1 September 2014, 400 pages. First published 2 March 2004 by Dell Publishing Company.]

Legacy of Masks [4]

Ex-prosecutor Mary Crow has returned home to Pisgah County, North Carolina, three years after bringing its corrupt sheriff to justice. But the local District Attorney reneges on his promise of a job for her, and the only offer of work comes from a land developer—and former classmate—who seems to have trouble taking no for an answer.

For Mary, coming home is supposed to be about renewal, about living the life she wants. She’s come home to reunite with her former lover Johnny Walkingstick . . . and to reconnect with her own past. But the reality of her homecoming takes a much darker turn as she’s plunged into the merciless world of a ruthless predator.

[Published 1 November 2014, 432 pages. First published 27 December 2005 by Bantam.]

Music of Ghosts [5]

Fiddlesticks killed her with his razor. Slit her throat and then forgave her.

Deep in the Appalachian woods stands the old Fiddlesticks cabin, the scene of a bloody double murder from decades past. Now the haunted cabin lures young thrill seekers who hope to hear the killer’s ghostly fiddle music. When a group of college students comes to call, Lisa Wilson—the daughter of a former North Carolina governor—is tragically murdered, and her flesh is mutilated with disturbing symbols.

Pisgah County sheriff Jerry Cochran is in hot water when the ball-busting politician shows up, threatening to tear the county apart in search of his daughter’s killer. But Nick Stratton—the handsome raptor center specialist and Lisa’s boss—is in even hotter water when evidence points to him as the prime suspect. As Nick turns to attorney Mary Crow for help, it’s up to the Pisgah County native to discover the truth. Did Nick do it? Or is there a deranged mountain killer on the loose?

[Published 1 April 2013, 386 pages]

Deadliest of Sins [6]

Recently appointed special prosecutor Mary Crow is sent to Campbell County, North Carolina, to investigate a possible anti-gay conspiracy between a recent murder and a homophobic preacher. But what starts as an effort to curb hate-crimes turns into a nightmare of abuse and abduction.

As Mary delves deeper into Campbell County’s history, she uncovers menacing information about the infamous Highway 74, where people have either disappeared or been found dead. When she uncovers how it’s all connected, Mary is forced into a deadly world of stolen innocence. And she may become the next victim . . .

[Published 1 April 2014, 290 pages]

About the Author

Though I'm a flat-land Southerner (Nashville, Tennessee), I've been fascinated by the Appalachian Mountains since vacationing there in my childhood.

Twenty years ago, I had an opportunity to move to Western North Carolina, so I packed my Tennessee bags and basically, never looked back. I soaked up the mountain culture, the Cherokee Indians, and the haunting beauty of the mountains. Ultimately, all these things wound up in a book called "In The Forest Of Harm" which introduced my protagonist, half-Cherokee Mary Crow.

Six (soon to be seven) books later, neither the mountains nor Mary have lost their fascination for me. It's been a privilege to write about her, and about this amazing area of the country.

When I'm not writing, I enjoy tennis, hiking, Big Foot sightings and a good cup of coffee. Love to hear from my readers, so drop me a line on my website!

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