Mystery Novel Excerpts

Here is a description of the plot and excerpt from my New Adult Mystery SCENT OF MURDER. It features a young Latina Spanish professor and her spirit guide who shares her name. Together they solve murders and uncover other heinous crimes on a seemingly quiet campus. If anyone knows a publisher or agent who handles Latino mysteries written in English, please contact me!

SCENT OF MURDER

By

Caroline Dow

Latinos, aromatherapy, theater, romance, skullduggery at the highest levels of academia, and a touch of paranormal magical realism—all these elements combine to create a spellbinding whodunit.

Carolina Corona, fresh from graduate school, is thrilled to land her first teaching job at a small university in her Boulder, Colorado hometown where she can reconnect with her Latino roots and perhaps find true love. Her enthusiasm soon wanes when she discovers all is not idyllic at the college. Seething jealousies and rivalries among faculty and students alike roil beneath the tranquil surface.

Carolina’s life takes a decided downturn when she stumbles over her chief Prince Charming candidate strangled in his office with her scarf. To make matters worse, her prime suspect is found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, and her fingerprints turn up in his bedroom.
Fearful of being convicted of two murders, losing her job, and shaming her family, the beautiful, but innocent young professor is driven to clear her name and ferret out the real killer’s identity. Inexorably she becomes entangled in an ever more complex web woven from the threads of passion, vice, rage, and pundonor—honor and integrity.

Amateur sleuth Carolina gets help from friends and family, both alive and dead in the form of her proverb-spouting spirit granny, and also from her interest in aromatherapy. In fact, both the proverbs and aromatherapy provide keys that stimulate Carolina’s ingenuity to solve the mystery.

EXCERPT

In this chapter, Carolina walks to her office on a summer evening to work and wait until time to meet Eddy Calderón, the Svengali-like theater professor Eddy Calderón, for a late supper date.

******

Carolina strolled to campus, sniffing appreciatively at the sweet fragrance wafting from the mock orange bushes that lined the walkway. Somehow springtime had slipped into early summer without her noticing. Although it was not yet dark, a big full moon had already risen, brightening the Sistine blue sky in the East with its white light. To the west, the sky over the mountains had turned a deep valentine rose with the setting sun.

She made her way along sidewalk almost empty of students at this late hour. Only the sound of her footsteps and the mysterious stirrings of nature in the shrubbery kept her company. Suddenly a crow cawed. She glanced toward the canopy of great, old oaks that spread a green mantle above her. How many generations of students, faculty, and staff had those trees witnessed pass under their boughs, she wondered? In that instant she realized how fleeting individual concerns of modern life are considered against the backdrop of history.

The air was redolent with the intermingled fragrances of damp earth and conifers, and as Carolina passed the botanical garden, she drank deeply the smells of spicy musk-scented climbing roses. In the aromatherapy workshop, Brianna had mentioned that the rose was the queen of the flower kingdom, and jasmine, the king.

She stepped under the old-fashioned, electrified lantern that, like a spotlight on a stage, illuminated the stairs to the College Theater. The theater’s front doors stood wide open to let in the fresh air during the rehearsal. Suzanne’s voice rang out, carrying all the way to the sidewalk. Perhaps Suzanne, indeed, had missed her calling as an actress, Carolina mused. She also wondered whether the stage crew had figured out the problems with the platforms and rose petals that had plagued Helen all week.

Carolina turned away from the theater and headed along another tree-lined walk toward the Spanish department, the moon illumining her path. Colonial Americans, she mused, aptly named the June full moon the Rose Moon after the quintessential flower of love.

The moon, with its perfect roundness, always held a special fascination for her. From a TV nature show she had learned that the lunar gravitational field pulls the earth away from water to cause the tides and influence weather patterns. The narrator mentioned that since humans are largely composed of water, the moon also affects the flow of the fluids within our bodies, creating fluctuations in our biorhythms as well as hormonal shifts. It is said that more babies are born at the full moon, more suicides and more murders occur then, and emergency hotlines get flooded with calls.

Certainly tonight Carolina felt lunar energy coursing through her veins, filling her with excitement and anticipation. She mouthed the old folk verse,

“Pray to the Moon when she is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found,
On the sea or solid ground.”

What would she discover on this enchanted evening redolent with possibilities? Would she at last, find love with one, Eddy Calderón?

As Carolina approached the department, she saw lights burning in several of the professors’ office windows….Evidently her colleagues, like her, had procrastinated, and were now hurrying to finish their paperwork before the end of the short, first five-week summer term…..

She descended the stairs, cutting her way through the stale air of the empty TA rooms, and headed to her office. She didn’t expect to see grad student slaving away at teaching assistant matters on such a balmy evening. In the inky hall by her office, she felt for the keyhole, and fit her key into the lock. As she stepped across the threshold and snapped on the light, her foot squashed something soft that had been left against her door.

She bent to pick it up and saw that she held in her hand a kind of poppet. Made from dark purple material with a bold floral pattern, it had been fashioned into the likeness of a female with black curly yarn used for hair. A big, ugly black hatpin pierced the figure’s heart. A Voodoo doll!

She dropped the disgusting effigy on her desk like it was a piece of burnt toast. From its frizzy mop, Carolina understood that the doll was meant to represent her.

Collapsing into her desk chair, she stared at the poppet. It stared back with vacant brown button eyes and a red-beaded mouth that sloped down in a frown. She had passed off the scorpions as a student prank, but this hideous doll was an entirely different matter. Growing up Latina, Carolina too many times had seen the relentless results of spells not to take the dark side of magic seriously. Evidently someone bore her a tremendous grudge. She shuddered and passed her tongue over dry lips.

Not wanting to touch the effigy again and let its bad vibrations penetrate her aura, she took two pens from the pencil holder on her desk, and gingerly lifted the doll. She was about to take it to the bathroom trashcan, but hesitated. Something about the figure other than the fact that it resembled her looked familiar, but she couldn’t think what.

Carefully, she transported the effigy to her filing cabinet. Opening the empty bottom drawer with the toe of her shoe, she shoved in the poppet, and slid the drawer closed like a body drawer in a morgue. Then she scurried into the bathroom and washed her hands with plenty of antibacterial soap and water to remove the faint odor of patchouli that had emanated from the poppet and soiled her hands.

Back in her office, she tried to work on the letter of recommendation, but the words did not flow easily. She wanted to rush back to the bathroom and wash her hands again even though she knew she had removed every vestige of the patchouli stink. Little noises—creaking, rustlings, clanking pipes, imagined or real footsteps above her head—bored into her concentration. Her mind kept drifting to the file cabinet drawer from where she swore she felt vibrations emanating pure hate.

When the phone rang, she almost jumped out of her skin.

“I’m back in my office,” said a breathless Eddy. “Come on up and we’ll go for that pizza.”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Carolina said, her heart thumping with anticipation. “I need to finish writing this letter first.”

“Oye. Suzanne, Dolores and Javier want to join us for a while.” He sounded apologetic. “Suzanne has been itching for us all to get together. And it does help to build cast solidarity. They won’t stay long, I promise.”

“No problem,” she said, but her heart sank.

“Also, I keep forgetting to tell you that you left your scarf hanging on the back of my door last week.”

“You’re right! I’d forgotten all about it since the weather warmed up. I’ll be sure to retrieve it.”

Carolina hung up and dashed off the letter. Not purple prose, but it would have to do.

“Rats!” she exclaimed as she combed her hair in the bathroom and applied fresh lip gloss. Suzanne and Dolores kept turning up like bad centavos practically wherever she went with Eddy. Well, it couldn’t be helped. She checked her watch. Somehow she’d let twenty minutes slip by.

She sped up the two flights of stairs and down the corridor to Eddy’s office. As she got closer she slowed her pace, not wanting to appear over eager. His door was ajar and the yellow glow from his desk lamp spilled out into the hallway.

“Sorry I’m late.” Carolina announced as she entered, “but it took forever to finish that—.” She stopped short as she collided with something solid.

“Eddy!” she cried.

Eddy Calderón was stretched face-up on top of his Indian rug with her scarf wound around his neck. His red-rimmed eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling and his face and neck had turned dark red.

Carolina thudded on her knees beside him and with one hand, ripped away the scarf. It had left a deep horizontal contusion around his neck. She bent close to his face and registered a very sweet fragrance with a tart finish to it. She put her shaking hand to his nose and mouth to check for breath then felt his pulse. Lifeless.

Shivering almost uncontrollably now and blinking back tears, she scrambled in her purse for her cell phone. At the same instant she heard the voice at 9-1-1 squeak, “What’s your emergency?” Suzanne, Dolores, and Javier appeared at the doorway. On seeing Eddy’s body and Carolina crouched over it with her scarf in one hand and her cell phone in the other, a look of shock blanched their faces.

“What have you done?” Suzanne shrieked.

“You’ve killed him!” shouted Javier.

Dolores screamed, “Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!”