Monday, December 23, 2013

Spotlight + Review: Bitter Pill

Rennie Harlow is having a bad year. She had a handsome husband, a good job, and a renovated condo in Chicago. Now, thanks to one "exotically beautiful" paralegal, she’s divorced, faking her way through a writing career, and living above her hypochondriac mother's garage back in Morrisville, the small town she couldn't leave fast enough at eighteen. On top of all of that, she just found Doc Hallacy, the local pharmacist, dead behind his counter. And the worst part is, he's the third body she’s stumbled across this year. 

Jake Bristol has lived in Morrisville his whole life. A former bad boy turned sheriff, he doesn’t believe it’s just Rennie’s luck or timing that’s the problem. He thinks she’s too nosy for her own good. The last thing he needs is her messing around with his murder investigation so that she can freelance for the Morrisville Gazette. But as they both delve deeper into Doc's death, they find that things don't add up. This isn't a robbery gone wrong or the work of a desperate junkie. Someone has a secret they're killing to keep. The only question is—who's next?

Chapter One

Don’t misunderstand, it’s not like I enjoyed having this happen to me. I guess it’s just some kind of bizarre twist of fate, or maybe a sixth sense that only kicks in when the grim reaper is afoot. It’s not like I’d wanted to find the high school swim coach floating face down in the deep end, any more than I’d wanted to find the assistant librarian hanging from the rafters in the library attic with a stack of true crime books kicked over beneath her.
It’s just that whenever bodies started floating, swinging or, in this case, dropping, I happened to be there. Bad luck, maybe. Still, worse luck for them than for me. This time, it was some very poor fortune for Doc Hallacy, the pharmacist.
Doc’s shop, a squat brick building with a striking orange and blue RX sign above the front door, sat on the corner of Main and First. On a Friday morning, at five minutes to eight, the main thoroughfare of Morrisville was deserted. Most of the stores didn’t open until nine. So unless you needed Doc Hallacy, who opened promptly at eight as he had for more than forty years, you had no business on Main at that time of day.
I parked my silver BMW in one of the diagonal spots in front of the pharmacy. The sporty little coupe was one of the toys my ex-husband had purchased before deciding he was too young to settle down, four years into our marriage. I’d fought for and won the car in my settlement and took great pride in abusing it in his stead.
As I climbed out and slammed the door shut, Starbucks Breakfast Blend slopped over the edge of my travel mug and splattered on the side window, burning my fingers in the process. The pain was worth it. I grinned, imagining Jeff’s expression of horror, as I watched the coffee trickle down the car door, creating clean streaks. I hadn’t washed the car in more than a year, not since I’d moved home to Morrisville from Chicago. Nothing like being a scorned and divorced woman before the age of thirty to make you a little bitter.
With a deep sigh of satisfaction, I stepped over the curb and headed to Doc Hallacy’s door to wait for him to flip the sign to OPEN and welcome me in.
I’ll admit to being lost in my first cup of coffee of the day—Starbucks was a luxury that I hadn’t quite been able to give up in my relocation—so I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at first. As I stood there, enjoying the early May sunshine on my face and perusing the store window—hell of a deal on a walker/bath seat (Doc also sold medical supplies)—it gradually occurred to me that something wasn’t right.
I pushed back my sleeve and checked my watch. Three minutes after eight. Suddenly that little voice in the back of my head, the one my mother encouraged me to ignore, piped up, offering all kinds of theories.
He could just be a little late, but in all these months of early morning pharmacy trips, he’d never been before. Maybe he was sick or hurt. Doc Hallacy was no fresh-faced pharmacology student anymore. He had to be pushing eighty, at least.
With the image of Doc unconscious and bleeding stuck in my head, I stepped up to the door and peered in through the glass panel. The door slipped open under the pressure of my hand cupped against the glass to block the light. I stepped back in shock. By now my little voice was screaming.
Clutching my travel mug, I crossed the threshold cautiously, noticing the lights were still off. “Now would be the time to call the Sheriff’s Office,” my mom would say. “Let them earn their money.” But my relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, particularly the Sheriff himself, was a little complicated at the moment. I had to make sure calling would be the right thing to do, not just what I wanted to do.
The familiar and comforting smell of the pharmacy—old building, dust, and talcum powder—filled my nose as I walked in farther. I passed the cash register and the metal rack of paperback books on my way to the counter in the back. I gave the dusty book covers a fond smile as I rounded the corner. This had been the only bookstore in town when I was a kid. Doc Hallacy’s wife, Maybelle, had always tried to get something new in for me every week or so.
The store grew darker the deeper I headed in, and the familiar smell of the pharmacy started to mix with a new scent, one I’d recently come to know well. Fresh blood and the stench of death.
Hoping I was wrong, I stepped up to the darkened counter. The metal security gate was up, retracted into the ceiling. A faint bit of light shone through the frosted glass window set high on the back wall.
“Doc? You here?”
No answer. The smell had grown stronger, coating my nose and mouth. I swallowed hard and leaned over the counter to look into the back. The freestanding shelves of carefully labeled medicines seemed undisturbed, but the side door, which opened into a tiny hallway, leading to the storeroom and a delivery door in back, stood open.
I set my mug down on a nearby shelf of vitamins and leaned farther over the long counter, letting my feet come off the floor.
“Doc?” I called again. I tried to inch forward, but my palm slipped on the slick counter. My feet flew up, tipping me farther forward. Only a quick grab kept me from falling into a heap on the other side. As it was, I ended up clinging to the counter’s edge with my head upside down, which brought me face to face with a very dead Doc Hallacy.
He was lying on the floor, tucked underneath the countertop. Red marks smeared the floor where he’d been dragged. A metal cane, bloodied and bent, rested by his side. He’d been beaten to death. Blood pooled beneath his head…and his glasses, the little square spectacles he always wore on the tip of his nose, dangled from his face, the lenses shattered and the rims twisted. His eyes, already starting to cloud over, stared up at me.

Review Rating: 3.5 LIGHTNING BOLTS

Review: Bitter Pill is a mix of mystery, romance, and more. It's a story of a woman at the brink of losing her mind, and she's left in the middle of a few messes.  The book's into jumps right into the story with ease, giving readers a glimpse of the leading character's world- which of course is a mess. Yeah, I said that already, didn't I?  :)

The plot is strong, although at times I kept wondering what I was missing, as if I should have known some things. That kind of had me scratching my head a bit, but otherwise it's a solid story line and plot. For romance fans, that's very second nature in this story, I think this one is more mystery than it is romance, but it worked well. I enjoyed the characters and will be looking for others from the author. 

Author Bio:

As a former award-winning corporate copywriter, Stacey Kade has written about everything from backhoe loaders to breast pumps. But she prefers to make things up instead. She's the author of two YA series from Hyperion: The Ghost and the Goth trilogy (The Ghost and the Goth, Queen of the Dead, and Body & Soul) and Project Paper Doll trilogy (The Rules, The Hunt, Book 3 TBD). 

Stacey lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Greg, and their two retired racing greyhounds, Tall Walker (Walker) and SheWearsThePants (Pansy).

Connect with Stacey!

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