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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lady in the Lazaretto

This week marks the release of my second novel in the Lazaretto Trilogy: Lady in the Lazaretto.  If you missed out on the first book of the trilogy, you can read about it in my post A Preview of the Lazaretto.  The Lazaretto is a dark and disturbing world where travelers must endure a forty day quarantine before traveling from one planet to the next.  It is a passive quarantine.  Those travelers found to be carrying an infectious pathogen are not allowed to leave the Lazaretto.  The exile is a life sentence.

As he carves a new life on the quarantine moon first revealed in The Lazaretto, Gregor Lepov is hired to solve the perplexing disappearances of its citizens into a mysterious basement apartment. Detective Ed MacNally of Lazaretto Homicide is busy training his new partner, Menya Russell, with whom he is investigating the murder of a man whose body was recently uncovered after thirty years.

  Thieves, corpses, ladies and liars lure Lepov and MacNally into the Lazaretto’s disturbing past.  Has the killer that was active thirty years ago begun killing again?  And after Lepov is nearly killed by a woman who looks too much like Lilly Stewart, he must decide who he can really trust in a city that shuns faith and embraces fear.

The book is available in print and ebook editions.

Below is an excerpt from an opening scene of the book.

   Darkness had not yet settled over the Lazaretto as Lieutenant Ed MacNally and his young partner, Menya Russell, walked across the uneven surface of a West End landfill.  Shards of glass and broken sewer pipes mixed with decomposing soil to create an alien landscape that made walking both difficult and dangerous.  The sun, as much as could be seen through the overcast sky, was still out.  It would sink out of sight soon and already crews were assembling a large tripod topped with fiber optic lamps.  They were ancient, compared to the newer models MacNally’s partner had seen at the academy, but they would do the job.
   “Over here, detective.”  A haggard man in an ill-fitting suit waved MacNally toward a small ditch between two mounds of debris; the man’s skin as pockmarked and scarred as the ditch.
   MacNally found a semi-solid path that had been formed by a tracked vehicle and followed it into the ditch.  The soil there was dry and crumbly.  With all the recent rain, MacNally hadn’t thought that was possible.  Halfway down, MacNally realized it wasn’t dry soil.  It was plaster dust.  Each step he took crushed it into a trillion little dust particles that floated a few inches from the ground and never seemed to settle back down.
   Despite the freshly disturbed plaster dust, a body was visible in the deepest level of the ditch.  The fiber optic lamps cast a shimmer of light now, enough so the two detectives could see what all the fuss was about.  Midst the disjointed shapes of the broken soil and debris lay part of a body; the lower half of a human adult.  There was little left save for the bones and most of the synthetic clothes with which the body had been covered.  The legs were badly twisted; the feet buried in the soil.
   “It that all?”  MacNally asked the man with the scarred face.
   “We thought it was.  My operator stopped digging when he saw it.  We did some soft digging with hand shovels after he backed the rig out.  We almost gave up until we hit this.”
   MacNally’s eyes followed the man’s pointed finger.  A bundle of rags lay at the far end of the ditch, fifteen meters away.  MacNally made sure not to step on the lower half of the body and motioned for Russell to do the same as he traversed the ditch and stopped near the bundle of rags.
   “Looks like a match,” Russell said, no humor in his tone.
   The little dust cloud clung to the ground as if it were afraid to float away.  MacNally squatted down and fanned the plaster dust with big meaty hands to get a clearer view of the upper half of the body.  It was face down, its shoulders hunched forward, hands and arms strung out in front.  The rib cage, visible through the heavily torn shirt, was full of fresh soil.
   “I don’t guess it’s gonna help to take Visuals, huh?”  Russell held back a few steps and showed little interest in the skeleton.
   “Doesn’t matter,” MacNally shook his head.  “We run every Aspect.  Doesn’t matter that there isn’t much left.  There’s information here.  We just can’t see it yet.”
   “I didn’t mean that,” Russell mumbled.
   “What?”  MacNally turned with exasperation.  It didn’t take much for the young Arcobian to get on his nerves.  “If you’re gonna say something say it loud enough so I can hear ya.  I ain’t twenty years old anymore.”
   “I said I didn’t mean the Visuals wouldn’t pick up any data.  I meant we don’t have a reason to investigate.”  Russell did not raise his voice.
   “I still don’t hear him,” MacNally mumbled, though in fact he had.  He just hadn’t heard his partner make an attempt to speak louder.  “I say we investigate him and that’s good enough reason for you.  Okay?”
   Russell looked down at the rags with the same pinched expression he always wore when arguing with the Lieutenant, wrinkling his brow in a way that always made MacNally think the boy had swallowed a bug.
   “Okay,” he said.  “I’ll make sure the VTechs get a good set of shots.  And a full set of tests on the soil.  Do you want anything else?”
   “Maybe,” MacNally stood still for a few seconds, mesmerized by the remains of the man at his feet.  He felt around in his coat pockets until he found a pack of cigarettes and put one between his lips.  He put a silver lighter to it and his shadowed face was briefly lit.
   “You think he was buried here for a long time?”
   “I doubt it,” MacNally pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and used it to point.  “This soil looks fresh, it’s only been in it for a short time.  See how loose all this is?”
   “Well, that ain’t exactly soil,” the scarred man in the bad suit spoke up.  “This is debris from a building that was just torn down.  I figure the guy was inside the building—basement maybe.  When the rigs dug it up he was pulled out.  Something like that.”
   “Maybe he was just some guy who died before the building was erected,” Russell said, shrugging his shoulders.  “Maybe he died of natural causes and was buried and no one remembered he was there.”
   “Russell,” MacNally was almost patient in his reply, “I realize you had little warning before your transfer, but you could have bothered to learn something about this place.  The IHS is very particular about people here.  They keep a zero sum count of everyone here.  If you arrive, you either depart, you’re still here, or you die.  Besides, no one gets buried in the soil here.  There’s too much risk of contamination.  That’s why the burials are up on the high slope’s bedrock.”
   “Maybe your IHS isn’t as all-knowing as you imagine.”
   “Speaking of IHS, they ought to be here pretty soon.  Go back to the car and wait for them.  Tell them we got to get Visuals.”  MacNally watched Russell climb the unstable embankment.
   “He could be right,” the scarred man offered without invitation.
   MacNally glared at him until the man grew uncomfortable and retreated to the other end of the ditch.
   Once alone, MacNally knelt beside the skeletal remains, examining the outstretched hands.  With a flashlight no bigger than a pencil, he illuminated the bones of the right hand.
   “You stupid sonofabitch,” MacNally stuck his cigarette between his lips.  “I should have known you never made it out of here alive.”
   He brushed away enough of the dust to free the middle finger of the right hand and completely reveal a silver ring with a Cross of Lorraine on its crest.  MacNally gingerly removed the ring and dropped it in his coat pocket.
   A new cloud of dust appeared at his feet as he kicked at the debris surrounding the boney fingers, erasing the signs of what he’d done.
   This was the worst kind of end to a day.  A new investigation was about to begin, and while Ed MacNally knew the body’s identity, he wasn’t about to reveal it to anyone.  He was, in fact, going to have to keep anyone from quickly identifying those bones.
   MacNally watched Russell stumble back through the landfill with two VTechs in tow.  It was about to be one helluva week.

Below you can find the new versions (yellow is the print, grey is the ebook version) as well as a link to the first book.  If you are interested in a signed print copy, watch for it at  It will be up on the website by the end of this week.

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