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Tuesday 17 September 2019

☀ Strangers She Knows: Cape Charade [3] - Christina Dodd

Thank you for joining us on the Release Day Celebrations for Strangers She Knows, a Mystery Suspense by (, HQN Books, 352 pages).

This is the third book in the Cape Charade series.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and the Kindle Cloud Reader Preview below, as well as full details of the series.

Author Christina Dodd will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀).

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||


I have three deadly problems:

1. I've seriously offended a maniacal killer.

2. I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
3. My new daughter is growing up too fast--and she's in the line of fire.

Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family...or does it? Family time becomes terror-time, and at last, alone, Kellen faces a killer playing a cruel game. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win...and who must die.

Teaser: Excerpt


Cape Charade
Washington’s Pacific Coast
This Spring

The Cape Charade undertaker, Arthur Earthman, never wanted to hear noises in the casket display room, especially after midnight.
      But this had been a week of interesting firsts.
      On Tuesday, a beautiful young woman, a grieving widow, had come into his office carrying a marriage certificate and a State of Washington Certificate of Exhumation. He hadn’t even known Washington state required a Certificate of Exhumation, since he’d never exhumed a body before.
      Through its entire existence, Cape Charade had been merely a wide spot on Highway 101, a place where summer tourists stopped for gas and lunch. The tiny cemetery, founded in 1879 by Arthur’s ancestor as part of his mortuary business, had never contained more than 5,300 dear dead souls.
      The widow, Miranda Nyugen, had been so sorrowful, so grief-stricken, so respectful of her Vietnamese husband’s traditions, that Arthur ached for her. It didn’t hurt that she was a beautiful woman—medium height, curvaceous, with shoulder-length, dark, shining hair, fair skin and piercing blue eyes. She had whispered her story in a voice shattered with heartbreak.
      She had met Mitch in California, two weeks before he was due to go overseas with the Army. He convinced her to wed, and they had driven to Las Vegas and married. They spent the next two weeks in bed, and he had left her alone, grieving, waiting for his emails and calls. The longer he was gone, the more and more infrequently she heard from him. At last, when she heard nothing for too many months, she scraped together all of her money and went to visit Mitch’s parents.
      In their shame, they could hardly look at her. Mitch had left the Army, gone to work at Yearning Sands Resort in Washington, and been killed while committing criminal acts. His immigrant family was deeply ashamed of him and the shadow his perfidy had cast upon them. Rather than bring his body home to them for burial, they had allowed him to be interred in the Cape Charade Cemetery where no one would visit him, no one would grieve for him.
      Miranda said she didn’t believe Mitch had committed any crimes—Arthur knew better, but he didn’t tell the young widow that—and she couldn’t bear for him to remain in the ground here, unmourned and unloved. She would take him back with her to Wyoming to her family burial plot.
      When Arthur asked why she would go through so much trouble for the husband she hardly knew, tears welled in her eyes.
      Miranda and Mitch were the parents of twins, a boy and a girl. The children deserved to be able to mourn at their father’s grave.
      So today they had exhumed the casket with its body from its corner of the cemetery, making sure not to desecrate any of the surrounding graves, and now Arthur sat in his kitchen and told the whole story to his wife, Cynthia, as she cooked his dinner. When he was done talking, she turned away from the stovetop and asked, “You believe all that? About the wedding and the family and the kids? When did you become the world’s biggest sucker?”
      “I haven’t!” Had he?
      The scent of garlic and oregano wafted from the pot. “It’s because she’s pretty, isn’t it?”
      He prided himself on saying the right thing in delicate circumstances. “Not as pretty as you, honey.”
      “There’s no fool like an old fool,” she retorted.
      “I’m not old!” Better to protest age than whether or not he’d been unwise.
      She laughed, opened a can of stewed tomatoes and dumped it into the pot. “Did this woman pay for the excavator?”
      “Yes. I have the check for that and the cost of my services.” He pulled it out of his shirt pocket and placed it on the table.
      “She wrote a check?” Cynthia left the stove, came to the table and examined it. “Hmm. Did you give her a discount?”
      “No!” He had.
      “Did you pay for flowers?”
      “Yes. But we get a reduced rate from the florist.”
      “Arthur.” Cynthia tapped her foot. “Where is the casket?”
      “Mrs. Nyugen is grief-stricken and she wanted to pray for his soul in the proper surroundings—”
      “You put him in the chapel? Why would you do that?” Cynthia threw her arms into the air in exaggerated exasperation. “That body’s been in the cold, heavy, damp ground for four years, and now it’s in the warm chapel? You know what could happen.” She stomped back to the stove and very, very vigorously whisked the marinara.
      “It’s a magnificent casket, top of the line. You know, when the Nyugen family purchased it, we wondered if they felt guilty about leaving him here or if that kind of coffin was Vietnamese tradition.”
      Cynthia slammed a lid on the sauce.
      “Anyway, I cleaned the exterior and did repairs on the seals before I would let him in there.”
      “Arthur William Earthman, you didn’t let him in there. He’s dead. You placed him in there. You could have placed him in the casket viewing room where the carpet isn’t new!”
      When she called him by his full name, it was time to distract her. “It’s only for one night,” he said in his most soothing voice.
      “Don’t use that undertaker tone with me!” She stirred pasta into the now boiling water.
      He got up from the table, strolled over close behind her and rubbed her bottom. “Nothing excites me as much as watching you cook.”
      “Yeah, well. Nothing excites me as much as watching you vacuum.”
      “After dinner, I’ll vacuum the living room.”
      “You must be feeling guilty.” Her voice was still sharp. “Anything else you want to confess?”
      “No. I swear. That’s everything. Isn’t that enough?”
      “Plenty. Here.” She handed him a full bowl of greens and a bottle of dressing. “Toss the salad.” She watched him toss, and she sounded more like his Cynthia when she said, “After dinner, when you vacuum—wear a frilly apron and I’ll make you the happiest man on earth.”
      So the distraction worked, as did the frilly apron, and when those disturbing noises from the mortuary woke Arthur out of a sound and well-deserved sleep, he tried to convince himself those sounds were his imagination. Finally he got up, murmured reassurance to Cynthia’s sleepy questions, pulled on his boxers, cursed his ancestor for attaching the family’s personal home to a funeral home, called 911 and went to investigate.
      The noises were definitely coming from the casket display room where Mitch Nyugen had been placed prior to his transportation to Wyoming. Arthur wasn’t a superstitious man—his business precluded fearing vampires, zombies or any form of the human body after the soul had departed—so he kept the lights off as he crept through the funeral home, intending to catch the intruders by surprise. He figured it had to be a couple of teenagers on a dare, and he intended to give them a good scare.
      As he got closer to the chapel, it didn’t do his nerves any good to see a faint light coming from under the closed door—it had been open earlier—and hear a low hum, like an electrical appliance.
      Reaching the casket display room, he slammed open the door, flipped on all the lights and yelled, “Hey!” And reeled back in horror.
      The coffin was open.
      A dark-haired, young and slender woman stood over it, doing something inside—to the body.
      “What are you doing?” Arthur shouted.
      Right away, he realized something was off. She hadn’t jumped, and he hadn’t frightened her; it was almost as if she’d been waiting for him. She looked up at him through her veil of hair. Her blue eyes glowed with a mad obsession.
      Miranda Nyugen. It was Miranda Nyugen. “Arthur,” she crooned.
      He started forward.
      She lifted one finger, then pointed it at the object on the top step. “Don’t step on that.”
      He stopped. He looked. “Is that part of the body? His hand? My God, woman, that was your husband.”
      She laughed wildly, her head thrown back, her enjoyment rich and intense. “Arthur, you vain and silly man. Don’t you know when you’ve been played?” She started toward him. She held a small circular saw in one hand. She held her other hand behind her back.
      “You’ve been cutting up the body? Miranda, you need help.”
      “It’s my own interesting little obsession. We all get to have our obsessions, don’t we?”
      “No.” He turned to leave, to get back to Cynthia and make his report to the sheriff who was on her way, but couldn’t get there fast enough.
      “You don’t imagine you can leave?” Miranda grabbed his arm in a surprisingly strong grip and spun him around—onto the point of the arterial tube she’d stolen from his embalming set. A moment of resistance, then the six-inch-long needle pierced the skin and sank between his ribs in a long, upward motion. He had one moment of stupid hope: that she had grabbed a clean and unused arterial tube.
      Then he realized it didn’t matter. He knew anatomy as well as any physician; either through skill or blind luck, she had penetrated his heart.
      He looked into her avid blue eyes.
      In his ears, he could hear each beat of his heart, and with each beat, he knew the powerful muscle contracted, pushing blood into his chest cavity.
      He writhed. He fell.
      Miranda Nyugen picked up the gruesome souvenir on the step.
      She placed it lovingly into her backpack.
      She leaned into the coffin, extracted something, dropped it into her backpack.
      She used one of the brass candlesticks to shatter one of their prized stained glass windows. Dark rushed in, misting his eyes with night.
      She dragged a chair over, got ready to climb out.
      Someone screamed. Cynthia screamed.
      Beat. Beat. Beat.
      Miranda turned back, and all he could see was the porcelain gleam of her teeth as she smiled that terrible smile.
      No, Cynthia. Run away!
      He waited for the next beat.
      It never came.
      He never knew it. Not in this world.


If there’s one thing that’s worse than not waking up after brain surgery, it’s waking up after brain surgery. No matter how brilliant the surgeon, having someone poke around in your brain results in bruising and swelling and disconnected nerves.
      For the surgeon, success equates a patient who comes to consciousness and is not in a vegetative state.
      For the bruised and swollen brain patient, success equates sitting up and not falling over, learning to hold a spoon and use it (FYI, sticking it in your eye hurts), and being able to complete a sentence without forgetting half the words. Let’s not even talk about potty training for adults.
      Oh! And may I say, the medical staff gets agitated when a person (me) gets confused about her first name.
      My husband, Max, told them not to worry.
      That’s because he knows the truth. I was born Cecilia, got married too young, was the victim of an abusive husband who had murder/suicided my cousin Kellen Rae Adams and then himself when she had come to rescue me. Being dumb, young and scared (I know, excuses! But I’m trying to give you the whole picture), I took her identification and ran with it. I made every bad decision, had been as cowardly as it was possible for a person to be, but then…then I grew. I made the decision to truly be Kellen, to live for my cousin, to make myself worthy of my new name.
      A six-year stint in the US Army had helped with that.
      Except apparently after brain surgery, when I had flashbacks.
      I know. I should be glad that I opened my eyes and once again saw my daughter and my husband, knew who they were, had their support and their love.
      I am.
      I am!
      Any woman who caught a bullet with her head and was lucky enough to wake up afterward, and then, years later, successfully survive the surgery to remove said bullet, is glad for all the good things in life.
      But while I was spending five hours a day with a physical therapist, my daughter was growing up without me, and my husband, Max, wouldn’t talk to me about anything that might worry me, and that means anything of substance. Honestly, everything was about me—I heard you took your first step today. Your manual dexterity is improving by leaps and bounds…on the left hand. Your hair is growing out and you don’t look like a cracked Chia Pet troll anymore!
      Okay, that last one was me. No one said I looked like a Chia Pet troll, cracked or otherwise. But when they shave your head and slice through the skull, and the swelling extends over half your face, it’s not a pretty sight. Not that I’m vain, but…
      Okay, I guess I am.
      As I recovered, my hair grew in white, so I dyed the tips a brilliant green. My mother-in-law said I looked like a healthy lawn. Now I change the color seasonally, and not merely to irk Verona, although that is an added benefit. At Christmas, I dye my hair stained-glass-window red, in the autumn, pumpkin-spice orange, in February, purple because…why not? I had to re-dye the springtime daffodil yellow. I love daffodils, but the yellow turned my complexion sallow.
      After a mere month in the hospital, two months in a rehab home, another two weeks in the hospital to fix a cracked hip (I got impatient and tried to get up on my own), a return to the rehab home, working, working, working, and finally discovering I had problems that would never be fixed and memory quirks that were downright scary…I got to go home, to Yearning Sands Resort.
      Meanwhile, my Aunt Cora had died in a memory care center, I’d missed so much of my little girl’s life she was barely a little girl anymore and my married life had faltered at the altar.
      Turns out, that was the least of my worries. Our worries.
      I’m Kellen Adams, and the fun had barely begun.

Strangers She Knows
Available NOW!

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The Series: Cape Charade

|| [0.5] || [1] || [1.5] || [2] || [2.5] ||

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

Hard to Kill [0.5]

When Captain Kellen Adams receives a job offer that sounds too good to be true, she finds herself balanced between fascination and fear. All she has to do is break a code and find a long-lost fortune…or die trying.

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd kicks off her Cape Charade suspense series with Hard to Kill, a short story of treasure, treachery…and murder.

[Published 1 August 2019, 61 pages]

Dead Girl Running [1]

I have three confessions to make:

1. I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.

Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another.

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?

[Published 24 April 2018, 368 pages]

Families and Other Enemies [1.5]

I still don’t remember, but I know what happened now. I had a baby, and that changes everything.

Kellen Adams has fought battles, saved lives and earned the respect of her colleagues and the love of her friends. But now can she triumph against the greatest challenge of her life—her family?

Families and Other Enemies is a new Kellen Adams short story by New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd, filled with her trademark mystery and humor.

[Published 1 January 2019, 82 pages]

What Doesn't Kill Her [2]

One secret, one nightmare, one lie. You guess which is which.

1. I have the scar of a gunshot wound on my forehead.
2. I have willfully misrepresented my identity to the US military.
3. I'm the new mother of a seven-year-old girl.

Kellen Adams suffers from a yearlong gap in her memory. A bullet to the brain will cause that. But she's discovering the truth, and what she learns changes her life, her confidence and her very self. She finds herself in the wilderness, on the run, unprepared, her enemies unknown--and she is carrying a priceless burden she must protect at all costs. The consequences of failure would break her. And Kellen Adams does not break.

What doesn't kill her...had better start running.

[Published 29 January 2019, 384 pages]

Hidden Truths [2.5]

His new bride, Kellen, hovers between life and death.
A convicted serial killer threatens their child.
Max Di Luca goes on the hunt...
What would you do to protect your family?

[Published 1 September 2019, 71 pages]

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes "edge-of-the-seat suspense" (Iris Johansen) with "brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd" (ALA Booklist).

Her fifty-eight books have been called "scary, sexy, and smartly written" by Booklist and, much to her mother's delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Follow Christina Dodd:

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CMash said...

This sounds

CMash said...

oops comment posted before I was done typing that it sounds like a thrilling read!