Mac McClellan Mystery #3
by E. Michael Helms
Living on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Mexico, I just knew I had to read this series. I’ve read the first two books and couldn’t wait to see what kind of pickle Mac got himself into this time.
Newly retired and looking for something new, Mac landed in the Florida Panhandle. It seems he’s a magnet for trouble and inadvertently ends up in a couple of murder cases.
An encounter with the enchanting, Kate, spurs him to put down roots. A young woman insists her brother, an archaeology professor, didn’t commit suicide, but was murdered. The plot thickens when she mysteriously dies in a car accident after speaking to Mac.
As suspects crawl out from under the woodwork, the author keeps you busy sifting through the false leads to find the motive and the killer or killers.
Mac. What can I say. Retired from the military, he’s got a bark he needs to tame. His girlfriend Kate is quick to remind him he’s no longer in the military and she doesn’t take orders.
It’s never mentioned but I wonder if Mac’s a Jimmy Buffet fan. He sure feels like a fellow parrothead.
The bullets fly. There are multiple car crashes. Beer and scotch are consumed. And you’re taken on a treasure hunt. What a bounty.
I’ve become familiar with the setting for this series and it’s fun to recognize locations and land marks.
I almost forgot to mention. There’s a shiny new character you’ll be meeting. His tag is Henry the Eighth, and you’ll love him!
With lots of action, a mystery that’s not easily solved, a feeling of coming home, and character’s I’ve become quite fond of, I was kept entertained. I’m enjoying this series and hope there is more to come.
Hours after hiring Mac McClellan to investigate the supposed suicide of her archaeologist brother, single-mom Jessie dies in a car accident. Jessie had just showed Mac artifacts and a copy of a map Jake found, items that indicate Hernando de Soto and his explorers might have camped on Five Mile Island during the winter of 1539-1540. Studying the map, Mac determines the site lies in the middle of a planned resort, The Dunes. Declaring the area an historic site could shut the project down. Suspicions aroused, he forges ahead, even though he no longer has a paying client.
Everywhere Mac turns, greed abounds, and no one he interviews seems innocent, even Jessie’s closest friends the Deckers, who have adopted her teenage daughter. Ron Decker’s construction company is building the Dunes, and he is heavily invested in its success. Then there is the oily son and ex-stripper wife of an old curmudgeon who won’t sell the one lot the project still needs to acquire. Jake’s estranged wife Laurel had plenty to gain from his death, and as Mac continues to dig, he begins to wonder if Jessie herself had more at stake than he was led to believe.
No one is happy about Mac’s persistence, and someone is unhappy enough to crash his truck and frame him for yet another murder. But Mac isn’t giving up, no matter what the cost.
Enjoy this glimpse inside.
During our meeting at Panama Joe’s Jessie had mention that her brother found the artifacts near the bay overlooking what appeared to be a dead forest sticking out of the water. That had to be The Stumps, and most likely the location of the Spaniards’ winter fort, if it had existed. But there was no telling how far out into the bay the small forested peninsula had extended during de Soto’s time. My guess was the main part of the fort was now under several feet of water. From my front pocket I pulled the map Jessie had given me of what during the 16th century was a seven-mile-long peninsula. I took it out of the protective ziplock bag. After studying it a minute or so I slipped in back in the bag and back in my shorts pocket.
My plan was to start inland and work my way in a crisscross pattern toward the bay. Not being familiar with the metal detector, and knowing I was looking for iron objects as well as coins, I turned the discrimination knob low and the sensitivity setting to about midrange and pressed the “All Metal” display. With those settings I’d probably come across a lot of trash, but it was my best shot at finding something worthwhile.
Sweeping the coil back and forth, I almost immediately picked up several beeps of different tones. I pinpointed the object as best I could, then dropped to a knee and pulled the garden trowel I’d borrowed from Kate from my back pocket and dug into the sand. A few seconds later I flipped up the rim of an old drink can that predated all-aluminum cans.
The next ten or fifteen minutes produced nothing but pull tabs, rusted cans and other junk, and then the detector let out a beep different from the ones I’d been hearing. Digging down about four or five inches, I heard the trowel strike something solid and metallic. My adrenaline rushed as I lifted a coin with a trowel-full of sand. Brushing the coin clean, I saw it was an Indian Head penny in rough condition, dated either 1903 or 1908. It was no 16th century Spanish coin, but what the hell, I figured it had to be worth at least a few cents. The trip wasn’t a total loss.
The wind was picking up, and the thunder was getting louder by the minute. Deciding my chances would probably be better closer to the bay, I hurried in that direction. Jerry and I had to motor back to St. George, and I damn sure didn’t want to do it fighting a gale. About ten feet from the edge where the dunes began to slope downward to the bay the detector cut loose again. I dropped to both knees and began digging. I dug about a foot deep came up empty, so I passed the coil over the pile of sand I’d excavated to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Nothing. I kept digging for another six or eight inches and then an object hit the pile and slid down a couple of inches. At first I thought it was an old bracelet someone had lost years ago, but on closer inspection I saw it was several small rusted oblong or circular loops linked tightly together, forming a patch-like object a couple of inches long and maybe an inch and a half wide. I had no idea what it was, but I slipped it into my pocket. You never know.
A few feet away the Bounty Hunter beeped again. Down and digging, I soon turned up a similar object, although this one was a little smaller in length. I dropped it in my pocket with the other one as a voice called out, “Hey, you!”
Oops! I turned and saw a tall lanky man with bushy hair approaching from about fifty yards away. He wore a tan shirt and trousers and a brown ball cap. It wasn’t a county sheriff’s uniform, but I had no intentions of hanging around long enough to find out who the guy worked for.
I scrambled to my feet and trotted toward the ledge as a shot rang out. The SOB was shooting at me, at least in my general direction! I hit the deck, cradling the detector in both arms and low crawled to the dune wall and went over head first. I spit out a mouthful of sand and tried to let loose a warning whistle to Jerry, but I doubt you could’ve heard it five feet away.
I turned feet-first and slid on down the slope and hit the beach running. Jerry had the boat waiting a few feet off the shoreline. I high-stepped through the shallows. Tossing the detector into the boat, I grabbed the bow and pushed for all I was worth. Jerry gunned the motor in reverse. I hung on until I managed to pull myself aboard and flop onto the deck.
“Turn this thing around and get the hell out of here!” I shouted, but Jerry was way ahead of the game. We were thirty or forty yards past the end of The Stumps when another shot rang out, barely discernable above the roar of the Merc 50. By then I was more pissed than scared, and if the Bounty Hunter was an M16 I would’ve had that chickenshit wannabe cop hugging Mother Earth for all he was worth.
Author E. Michael Helms
- Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, FL, on the beautiful coast of the Florida Panhandle. He played football and excelled in baseball as a catcher. Turning down a scholarship offer from the local Junior college, he joined the Marines after high school graduation. He served as a rifleman during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War until wounded three times in one day. Helms discounts it as “waking up on the wrong side of the foxhole.”
His memoir of the war, The Proud Bastards, has been called “As powerful and compelling a battlefield memoir as any ever written … a modern military classic,” and remains in print after 25 years.
The Private War of Corporal Henson, a semi-autobiographical fictional sequel to The Proud Bastards, was published in August 2014.
A long-time Civil War buff, he is also the author of the historical saga, Of Blood and Brothers.
Seeking a respite from writing about war, Helms decided to give mysteries a try. The first novel of his Mac McClellan Mystery series, Deadly Catch, was published in November 2013 and was named Library Journal’s “Debut Mystery of the Month.” The second Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Ruse, premiered in November 2014. It won the 2015 RONE Award for “Best Mystery.” Deadly Dunes was published in March 2016 by Camel Press. Deadly Spirits is scheduled for release in January 2017.
With his wife, Karen, Helms now lives in the Upstate region of South Carolina in the shadow of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He enjoys playing guitar, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, and is an avid birdwatcher. He continues to listen as Mac McClellan dictates his latest adventures in his mystery series.
Represented by Fred Tribuzzo, The Rudy agency.