Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ice on the Bay VBT

The forecast: Record cold. The crimes: Colder still.

A saintly young veterinary technician disappears on Christmas Eve, leaving behind only a broken window and smears of blood on his clinic's back steps. Two years later, his disappearance remains a mystery. A home in an exclusive area burns to the ground, mirroring fires ignited the previous year by an arsonist who now sits in prison. Is the new fire a copycat, or has the wrong man been convicted? A criminal with a long list of enemies is shot dead, and not even his friends are sorry. While temperatures plummet, cold cases collide with new crimes, and somewhere a killer with blood as icy as the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watches and waits.

Without bothering to thank Peller, Dibble ate half of his sandwich before asking, "What do you want?"

"Same as you. To know why your house was torched."

"Seems obvious to me. Sergeant Montufar said arsonists get their kicks from setting fires."

"Sometimes. Not always."

Dibble maintained focus on his food. Peller took a long pull on his soda and waited patiently for him to answer, but no answer was forthcoming, so he decided to shake things up a little. "You don't think it was random, Mr. Dibble."

Dibble looked up sharply.

"Tell me I'm wrong.”

"I . . . I don't know."

Peller settled his drink in the cup holder and gazed at the trees, stark in their winter slumber. "Sergeant Montufar told me a story. Last year, an arsonist torched three houses. We caught him and sent him to prison. A set of fingerprints lifted from a mailbox near the street gave him away. The investigator might not have thought to check for prints there, except one of the victims remembered receiving a juvenile sort of warning in her mailbox. At the time, she took it for a stupid teenage prank. Fortunately she remembered it, and told the investigator about it.”

Dibble, his mouth drawn into a tight line, looked out the windshield as though studying the woods, but Peller knew he was seeing a ghost from his past. "What's your point, Lieutenant?"

"Anything, even something that seems unconnected, even something that seems stupid, could be important. And to be perfectly frank, I think you know what it is. Why don't you tell me about it?"

The Mysteries of Mystery

Mystery and crime fiction is the second most popular genre after romance, just barely edging out religious fiction and maintaining a solid lead over science fiction and fantasy. Not that it's a horse race. Most writers write what they like to write, not what they think will rake in the cash. It's a harsh reality that for every one Stephen King, thousands of us work day jobs to support our writing habits. Nevertheless, it's worth thinking about why mystery is so popular, and why it's not in fact more popular.

Mystery deals in the darkest aspects of human life: hate, greed, fear, even insanity. It's a messy business. Revenge and cruelty and all manner of crime, right up to multiple murder. P. D. James once commented on how ironic it was that this messiest of genres is typically read by people who crave order in their lives. She thought this probably was so because although mystery, like real life, is messy, unlike real life you can count on the author sorting it out and reestablishing order in the end. Is this the deep appeal of the mystery novel, that it promises justice for cruelty and beams light into the darkness, when so often the real world seems oblivious to the calling of our higher nature?

Possibly so. In my novels, the bad guys always get their comeuppance, although not always in the way one might expect. They don't necessarily end up in handcuffs awaiting trial. In fact, more often than not they end up dead by means the reader cannot (I hope!) foresee. They may leave a trail of tears and pain behind them, but they don't escape justice. This isn't so with all mysteries, and sometimes the distinction between the white hats and the black hats isn't at all clear. But being a Baha'i, I like to feed our better side and suggest that there is indeed light in spite of the darkness. That very theme underpins my new novel, Ice on the Bay (co-written with my wife Kathleen).

The other query, why isn't mystery more popular than it is, is a bit of a trick question. Mystery is more than a genre. It's an element of fiction, and often of nonfiction. It's a secret, an enigma, an unknown. The word traces its origins through Middle English and Latin to the Greek mystes, meaning initiate. It invokes secret knowledge, a fact or understanding reserved for only certain people. In nearly every good piece of fiction, romance included, you'll encounter a mystery or three. We authors never want our readers to know everything up front. Mystery keeps you reading because you yearn to be initiated into it. You want to know what happened, why it happened, what Thomas is doing behind Sarah's back. Mystery creates suspense—that is, it makes you wait for what you want, which in turn drives you forward. Yeah, we're messing with your head, but you know you love it. If we didn't, you'd quickly grow bored, throw the book in the recycling bin, and go make a sandwich or something.

And that's why mystery permeates all genres, making it in fact more popular than anything in literature, sex included. I've known romance readers who skip the sex scenes, which they view as all the same and eventually found rather boring. Those readers crave the story. And what creates that craving?

That element of mystery.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

Author Bio and Links:
Dale E. Lehman is a veteran software developer, amateur astronomer, and bonsai artist in training. He is the author of the Howard County Mysteries series (The Fibonacci Murders, True Death, and Ice on the Bay ). His writing has also appeared in Sky & Telescope and a couple of software development journals. With his wife Kathleen he owns and operates One Voice Press and Serpent Cliff. They have five children, five grandchildren, and two feisty cats.

Author website and blog    |    Facebook    |    Twitter    |    Goodreads

Book Links:


  1. Good morning! Thank you for having me today. I hope you enjoy my guest post. I'm looking forward to meeting all of you and answering any questions you might have.

  2. I enjoyed getting to know your book; congrats on the tour and I hope it is a fun one for you :)

  3. Replies
    1. You're quite welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy "Ice on the Bay" just as much!

  4. Congratulations on your book. Thanks for hosting the giveaway. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

    1. Thank you, and you're quite welcome. I hope you enjoy "Ice on the Bay."

  5. I just love your cover and excerpt, and I am looking forward to reading your book.

    1. I'm glad you like it and hope you enjoy the book!

  6. The "Ice on the Bay" tour has about come to an end. Best of luck to everyone on the raffle. Please visit me at my website, and if you can pick up a copy of "Ice on the Bay." (Links are above.) Thank you all for following along!