Keeping a Series Alive, by Amy Bennett
It's hard to believe that just three years ago, the Black Horse Campground mystery series was just getting its start with the first book, “End of the Road”. Corrie Black, Rick Sutton, and J.D. Wilder were about to make their debut into the world and no one knew where their adventures would take them in future books.
Four books later, I'm still trying to figure out where they'll be next!
In “End of the Road”, a newcomer to Bonney County arrives in time to be suspected of murdering a long-time guest at the Black Horse Campground. Not only does J.D. help solve the mystery, he finds himself being accepted as a member of the Black Horse—and Bonney County—by Corrie and Rick and other lifelong residents. Over the course of three books, J.D., and my readers, have come to know and love life in Bonney and enjoy a relationship with its most interesting residents.
In the fourth book, “At the Crossroad”, due out soon, J.D. is firmly established as a resident of Bonney and his fierce sense of protection and loyalty come into play when he suspects that a killer has walked free for many years among the community that has become his haven from his former life. As J.D. feels more at home in Bonney, secrets from his past begin to come to light and he finds acceptance and peace despite the mysteries he helps to solve.
Trouble often comes in threes. It's no different at the Black Horse Campground.
On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously... or even properly investigated them.
Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he's about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn't be worse, since he's finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up... someone who's hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him... business that has to do with digging up a painful past.
When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.'s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women... and is prepared to kill again?
When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?
Excerpt from Chapter 14
J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato's words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn't get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn't going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.
He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie's apartment light was on but the store's lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.
He started out, following the path he'd taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that... he'd have to wait and see.
He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he'd be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he'd probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.
Unlike most small cemeteries he'd encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.
The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.
Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.
J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he'd left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.
He'd been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.
He hated it when he was right.
Amy Bennett's debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “No Vacancy”, which have both been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. “At the Cross Road” is the fourth book in the series.