Dead Man’s Leap, a traditional mystery by Tina deBellegarde
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Dead Man’s Leap by Tina deBellegarde
DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York
Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…
As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.
Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?
Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.
To purchase Dead Man’s Leap, click the following link: Amazon
Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 1685120849 (ISBN-13: 978-1685120849)
Series: A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #2
Why Fiction is Really Autobiography
By Tina deBellegarde
Over my many years as a reader I have often wondered why some books seem real, connect with me, seem to “get it right,” and others did not. I have decided that for me character development must transcend the plot. This is how I believe a science fiction book can be so surprisingly relatable. A good writer will develop the characters with authentic emotions that transcend the setting, the time period, the genre, and the plot.
Write what you know. Many writers feel cramped by this dictum. What if an author has lived in one neighborhood their entire lives? Never traveled? Never had any particular good or bad fortune to endure? What can they write? They can write about their internal struggles. Everyone has them. Everyone feels them deeply. Writers must be willing to mine these feelings and imbue their characters with the depth of these emotions. There are plenty of books that skirt over emotions. These books make us laugh, help us relax, they entertain us. But the books that connect, do so through their depth of feeling.
When Luke Skywalker searches for his father, when he contends with his father’s identity, we come to understand him a little bit better. We empathize. We wish him the strength to handle it. Not because we have all dealt with this precise issue, but because we can equate his struggle to other struggles we have had. We recognize his pain.
Louisa May Alcott didn’t have to be a mother to write an authentic Mrs. March in Little Women. Alcott was a daughter, was close to her sisters, and she experienced a difficult family life. This suffering was translatable. Readers understand the March women because even without the exact challenges they experience in the book, we know the depth of emotion we feel for our children and our siblings. So, we connect, we feel the authenticity in Alcott’s writing.
We don’t have to be men to connect to Hemingway’s Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. We have all needed to summon extra courage or resilience to endure and prove our identity to ourselves. Santiago’s plight is so well revealed that we can relate to it, we recognize it and we root for him as we would root for ourselves. We need him to succeed. This produces an authenticity to the reader. Some have said that Hemingway personified manliness. It is no wonder then that this particular author could pull from that experience and imbue an old man, of an age that Hemingway never experienced, with these believable qualities.
But universal emotions still need to be tapped. A writer cannot merely say that Mrs. March loved her children. We need to see how she loved them. Hemingway cannot merely say that Santiago was proud. We need to witness it.
Write what you know tells me that I need to be willing to tap into buried emotions in order to offer it up to my readers. They are peering inside my soul.
Writers who are too possessive, too jealous of their personal pain, so secretive as to not share their deepest insecurities or vulnerabilities on the page, may write a suspenseful plot, may create an interesting world or puzzle, but that’s not enough to engage me with the characters. And for me, the story is all about the people.
Excerpt from Dead Man’s Leap
He inched toward the precipice, his toes gripping the stone ledge as if they had a will of their own. He lifted his head and squinted into the sunlight still streaming through the blackening clouds. He took in the expanse of rushing water below. In all his eighteen years, Trevor had never seen the creek roil so ferociously.
A clap of thunder startled him. His toes relaxed, and he felt as if the slightest wind could take him over the edge. Lightheaded for a second, he regained his footing and his purpose.
He had no choice if he wanted all this to stop.
He needed to do it.
And do it now.
The downpour would break again soon. But for now, all he could hear was the rushing of Horseshoe Falls beneath him, the roar drowning out the noise of his past.
Of his father.
Of his mother.
Yes, his mother. He had expected his father to be weak, and wasn’t surprised at all after he left. But his mother? A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional. At least that’s what she had always said before she had turned their world upside down. It was bad enough when she had played at being the sexiest woman in town. At least when his friends teased him then, it was meant to be fun. But this was worse, far worse. Now they wanted nothing to do with him. Now they used him as a punching bag.
His gang no longer looked to him as their leader. They ridiculed him for what his mother had done. From the beginning, he knew those kids were bad news. What choice did he have? In grade school he’d been bullied. Well, he had put a stop to that in high school. Can’t be bullied if you’re the biggest bully.
His mother was gone. His father was gone. And now his posse. First, it was the cold shoulder, and a few snide remarks. Then he was cornered in the locker room after the game one day. That was the hardest. He hadn’t taken a beating like that since the fifth grade. But the tables had been turned on him so fast that he never saw it coming. Trevor realized now that they were never friends. They were just a group of trouble makers who hung out together. Good riddance to them. He didn’t need them anymore.
Another thunderclap reminded him where he was. On the edge. Right on the edge. He either had to do this properly or he would be going over anyway.
Trevor looked over his shoulder one last time and heard a faint commotion in the background. Once they rounded the path, he closed his eyes and jumped.
* * *
Bianca St. Denis stretched to grab the cord just out of reach above her head and yanked on it with all her force to bring down the attic staircase. She tilted her head to avoid being struck as it made its way down. She unfolded the retractable stairs and put one foot on the first rung. But there she stopped, not sure she could take the next few steps. At forty-two the issue wasn’t her physical ability to climb the steps, she was active, even fairly athletic. The old saying went “the mind was willing but the body was not.” Well, in her case “the body was willing but the mind was not.”
She had stayed out of the attic all these months since Richard’s death. She had made do without her ski parka this past winter, and used Richard’s barn jacket she’d found in the mudroom instead. She had made do without the spring curtains she would normally switch out in the living room each March. The winter ones still hung heavy and foreboding. And she made do without the patio cushions she had sewn two seasons ago. She simply sat on the raw wood when she wanted to read or eat in the backyard. She hadn’t realized the number of things she had been doing without by avoiding the attic, not until the town started buzzing about the rummage sale. She pretended it was because she hadn’t had time to search for the items, but she knew better.
She took her foot off the rung, bent and picked up the stairs again, refolded them, and let them float to the ceiling. The hatch closed with a neat click.
* * *
Once Trevor hit the water, his tension disappeared. He welcomed the release and let himself drop. Slowly he was pulled down into the chaos of the rushing water, but his mind had floated above it all. He didn’t feel a thing, he observed it instead. He watched as his body sank, as it swirled in the vortex of the overfull creek. He watched as his body escaped the current and floated peacefully in the murky water. And he watched as he gave in to full renunciation and allowed the water to decide what was to become of him.
His thoughts slowed, as muddy as the water surrounding him.
They slowed, but he could not make them disappear.
He had managed to avoid jumping off Dead Man’s Leap every summer, but this year he knew he couldn’t get away with it. They had already threatened to make sure he jumped this year. That was only part of what the summer had in store for him. Who could he turn to? His grandparents had no idea what he was going through. They always hid their heads in the sand anyway. There was nothing they could do for him. So, he had taken matters into his own hands.
He was shocked when his head broke the surface, and despite himself he gasped for air in enormous mouthfuls until he gagged. He bobbed there, undecided, until he finally attempted the few strides to reach the cove. It took him longer than he expected, like swimming in molasses. A cross between his fatigue, his indifference, and the strong current kept him from reaching the bank in the three strokes it would normally require. On his knees, he crawled out of the pull of rushing water and dropped on the shore.
* * *
Leonard Marshall picked up the package, the paper crinkling in his hand. He carefully unwrapped one layer, then another. Layer after layer until he held the smooth tiny statuette in his hand. He trembled, and smiled, attracted and repulsed at the same time. How could such a tiny thing hold so many emotions for him? So much power over him? It was so small he could cradle it in the palm of his hand. He closed his fingers around it. It disappeared. He opened them again, and there it was. With it came a flood of memories. Exhilarating. His heart raced with a quick pat, pat, pat.
The basement door creaked. He took in a breath.
Time slowed and his heart with it.
The light clicked on.
Another creak. Above him a step, a pause, another step. The door ached on its hinges as it opened wider. The light flicked off. The door closed. The steps faded. He let out his breath.
* * *
Trevor had never experienced fatigue like this. He crawled onto shore in the shadow of the cliff and collapsed. He never expected to make it out of the water, and now that he had, he lay there drawing in large mouthfuls of air, as if his lungs would never get enough. He stayed there, staring up at the sky, watching the dark clouds shapeshift. The rain would be there any moment, and to his surprise, he welcomed it.
As his breathing relaxed, he realized that the pain he felt was a sharp object stabbing his back. He rolled over, removed it, and threw it off to the side. As he turned to lay back down, his blurry eyes focused on the object. It was a bone. A human bone? He scrambled onto his knees and slowly made his way over to it. He was repulsed and fascinated, but mostly he was frightened by the sight of a bone and what that could mean. What had happened here, right here in this cove?
In the distance, he heard their drunken voices again. He knelt and grabbed handfuls of dirt to cover the bone. He heard them approach the edge of the cliff.
“He came this way. I saw him jump.”
“He’s too chicken, he didn’t jump. But when I find him, he’ll jump alright. He’ll jump or I’ll send him flying.”
“He jumped, I tell ya. Leave him alone. You wanted him to jump, and he did. I saw him. Let it go, already.”
“Yeah, well if he jumped, where is he?”
“You think he’s still under? You think he hit his head like that kid a while back?”
“I’m telling you, he didn’t jump.”
“There’s nowhere else to go but down. Of course, he jumped.”
“I’m going in. If he did jump, we’ll find him down there. He’s probably hiding under the cliff.”
Trevor carefully picked his way out of the cove. Scraping up against the cliff as close as his body would allow, he followed the contours until he came out on the other side of the falls. With his last bit of strength, he climbed up the rocky trail alongside Horseshoe Falls.
Author of Dead Man’s Leap — Tina deBellegarde
Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award, and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award.
Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies.
She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden.
She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.
To learn more about Tina, click any of the following links: tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub – @tinadebellegarde, Instagram – @tdb_writes, Twitter – @tdbwrites & Facebook – @tinadebellegardeauthor
Visit All the Stops on the Tour!
05/02 Showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea
05/05 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews
05/06 Interview @ I Read What You Write
05/07 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
05/10 Review @ sunny island breezes
05/11 Review @ It’s All About the Book
05/12 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
05/13 Review @ Waterside Kennels Mysteries
05/13 Showcase @ Books to the Ceiling
05/16 Review @ Quiet Fury Books
05/17 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
05/18 Guest post @ The Mystery of Writing
05/18 Showcase @ Nesies Place
05/23 Guest post @ Novels Alive
05/24 Review @ Scrapping & Playing
05/25 Review @ Lisa Wetzel (FB)
05/30 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty
05/31/ Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
08/08 Interview podcast @ Blog Talk Radio
08/08 Review @ Just Reviews
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020