With help from friends, family, and her yoga practice, Alexa Williams is finally starting to recover from last autumn’s trauma of finding a dead body and the violence that ensued. The young attorney can’t believe that her summer has begun with the discovery of another body. This time, the dead woman was famous for her worldwide campaign against sex trafficking. The murder hits close to home: the late activist was a friend and mentor to Alexa’s best friend, Melissa.
While the town mourns, Alexa stumbles into a burglary at Melissa’s home, barely escaping serious harm. A client asks for help in convincing the police that her foster child is not a runaway, and Alexa learns that other local girls have gone missing. Drawn into the fight to save lost and exploited children, Alexa discovers a community of child activists. A local philanthropist wants Alexa to join his foster care empire. A sexy social worker and a hip college professor want a more personal connection with Alexa, but she is also drawn to the police detective leading the murder investigation.
Searching for answers, Alexa becomes entangled in a web of deception and danger that puts both her heart and her life at risk. By the time she discovers that the key to the present lies in the halcyon days of peace and music, it may be too late.
Melissa abruptly stopped shouting and knocking. “Alexa, something is wrong. I’m going to check.”
Alexa let out a deep sigh and tilted her head to the left, then to the right, trying to dispel the tension building between her shoulder blades. Melissa was pushing her to the limit today. With reluctance, she gave in.
“We’ll both go. Does she have an alarm system?”
“I doubt it. Cecily rarely even locks the door.” Melissa reached for the doorknob, which turned easily in her hand, and the two women slipped into a mudroom area.
“Cecily?” Melissa called again in a hushed voice.
Alexa grabbed Melissa’s hand as they crept into the big kitchen. Following the scent of cinnamon, she noticed an uncovered plate of muffins next to the stove. The sight of a black pocketbook sitting undisturbed on the wide counter sent her pounding heart into overdrive.
“There’s a living room and an office through that door,” Melissa gestured, her steps slowing.
“Maybe we should go outside and call the police.”
“But what if Cecily has been hurt? Let’s at least check out the downstairs.” Melissa squared her shoulders and marched into the hall. Alexa scanned ahead and behind, on high alert, as she followed her friend.
“I’ll check in here. You look in there.” Melissa disappeared through the door on the right, and Alexa turned into the room that Melissa indicated on the left. Clearly, this was the office. She could make out the shape of an old roll-top desk in the near corner.
The stormy twilight that filtered through the tall casement windows steeped the room in shadows. This whole thing was creeping Alexa out. She ran her hand along the wall next to the entry, searching for a light switch. Finding none, she took a deep breath and strode toward the silhouette of a floor lamp on the far side of the room. She flipped the switch and sighed with relief as light flooded the office.
That relief vanished when Alexa took in the roll-top desk to her right. The desk was a mess. It looked like someone had pulled papers out of the little cubbies in the back of the desk and dumped them in the center. The big drawers all stood open, and more paper littered the floor beside the desk. The computer monitor hung by a cord, facedown, perched over some files. When Alexa took a step toward the desk, the monitor shifted, hitting the table with a thump. Startled, she backed away.
A coppery smell, like new pennies baking in the sun, hung in the still air. In the silence, Alexa noticed a faint buzzing noise coming from outside the house. Beyond the reflection of lamplight, she could see hundreds of flies crawling over the wavy glass panes of the antique windows.
With dread, Alexa turned left to survey the rest of the room. She moaned and swayed when she spied a pool of blood on the floor at her feet. “Not again. This can’t be happening again,” she protested under her breath.
As she looked in revulsion at the blood, a thin crescent of red inched toward her like a scarlet claw. She jerked her foot away in horror before she realized that it was a lone, blood-drenched fly, staggering out of the crimson pool in a drunken stupor.
Sherry Knowlton, author of DEAD of AUTUMN and DEAD of SUMMER, was born and raised in Chambersburg, PA, where she developed a lifelong passion for books. She was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name.
Sherry spent much of her early career in state government, working primarily with social and human services programs, including services for abused children, rape crisis, domestic violence, and family planning. In the 1990s, she served as the Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The latter part of Sherry’s career has focused on the field of Medicaid managed care. Now retired from executive positions in the health insurance industry, Sherry runs her own health care consulting business.
Sherry has a B.A. in English and psychology from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. She lives in the mountains of South Central Pennsylvania, the setting for her Alexa Williams.