I invite you to travel with me to Winnebago County, Minnesota and follow the challenging cases Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson and Detective Elton “Smoke” Dawes get assigned. Ordinary people in the county find themselves in circumstances far outside the ordinary in the medium-boiled Winnebago County Mystery series.
Or for a cozier mystery adventure, go to Brooks Landing, Minnesota and the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries where you’ll get to know Curio Finds manager, Camryn Brooks, and other intriguing and quirky characters you’ll appreciate and enjoy.
It seems the characters we love and write about, especially those in an ongoing series, have happenings that may never show up in a book. Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes, as well as others in the two mystery series, are never far from my thoughts. Blessings to all of you as we bid farewell to an upside down year, and pray for a brighter 2021!
How Smoke and I Spent Christmas
From my earliest memory until now, Christmas has stirred mystical feelings of joyous wonder. I imagine the first living nativity as my favorite carol, “Silent Night” played in my mind.
Flames danced around the logs in the fireplace and rose toward the chimney. As I watched the fire and listened to a Christmas music on one of my fiancé’s—Smoke’s—old CDs, the combination of sights and sounds relaxed and mesmerized me. Smoke’s dog Rex, and my Queenie, rested at my feet by the couch.
Elton “Smoke” Dawes was the Winnebago County Sheriff’s detective on duty, and per Murphy’s Law, was called to investigate a gift shop burglary. On Christmas Eve.
My phone jingled at 7:58. I put a smile on my face when I answered. “Merry Christmas, Detective.”
“Corinne. Sorry our evening didn’t go as planned. Still at your Mom’s?”
“Back at your place, and no worries.”
“We tracked the burglar down a few blocks from the store, thanks to that fresh layer of snow. Kind of a sad deal. The kid wanted a gift for his mom, no money, so he jimmied the lock on the Villager Gift Shoppe’s back door.”
“That is sad. What’d he take?”
“Turns out, not a thing. His conscience got the better of him and he took off. Didn’t know about the silent alarm and was more than a little surprised when I knocked on his front door. You know the place; rundown rambler on fifth street.”
“Kid’s sixteen. Never been in trouble before. I interviewed him with Mom in their downright bare kitchen and decided not to charge him. They both cried over the whole deal. Almost had me in tears. They’d just moved here and are living leaner than just about anyone else in town. No tree, or other Christmas decorations. Plus they both had COVID a couple weeks back. I felt kinda bad leaving them all by their lonesomes.”
“Where are you now?”
“My car, outside their house.”
“Invite them over. Since we’ve all the virus, it’s not an issue. Mother sent enough stew and appetizers and eggnog for a medium-size party.”
“Hmm. I like the way you think, little lady.”
I went into the kitchen and got the dips and appetizers out of the refrigerator and set them on the counter. Oyster stew simmered on the stove. Meatballs and potato sausage warmed in crockpots. I added two more bowls, plates, mugs, and flatware to the waiting stacks. About a minute later, our dogs shifted their attention away from me and ran to the front door. Rex barked and Queenie whined until the door opened and Smoke stepped in. He held the door for a woman not much older than me, and a teenage boy who stood as tall as Smoke’s six feet.
“Corky?” the woman said when she came in. I studied her, wondering who she was and how she knew me. She cast her eyes downward for a moment while her son stared at me like he was trying to figure out the same thing. “It’s Josie. . . Grinde. Now Brown.” My classmate had aged beyond her thirty-four years.
“Josie, of course! Welcome.” I threw my arms around her for a quick hug. “Come right in. And this young man is your son?”
Her eyes lit up. “Yes. Travis.”
I gave him a warm smile then waved my hand toward the kitchen. “We are beyond happy you’re here. We’ve got enough food for ten people. At least.”
Josie looked around. “Your tree is beautiful and with the fire and music playing, I almost feel like we’re in a Hallmark movie.”
“Mom.” Travis rolled his eyes.
I felt a twinge of guilt that we had much when they had little. The three of them shrugged off their outerwear and boots and we trooped into the kitchen.
“Oyster stew is on the stove, but if you’re not a fan, we have plenty of other choices. Plus that big plate of cookies and candies.”
“I love oyster stew and it’s been too many years since I’ve had some. Everything looks amazing,” Josie said.
I ladled stew into bowls and dashed paprika on top. Travis added as many oyster crackers as the bowl could hold. We filled our plates and took seats around the old wood kitchen table. Smoke said grace adding special thanks for Christmas blessings.
Smoke and I, for the most part, made small talk while we ate. I wanted to hear Josie and Travis’s story, but it was theirs to tell and they might not want to think about it at our Christmas party. Instead, I asked Travis about school, how he liked it.
“We just moved here. So I won’t start until after winter break is over next week,” he said.
Josie didn’t add any comments, and we reverted to more small talk. About the expected snow, how thick the ice was—safe for four-wheelers and portable fish houses, but not for cars and trucks to drive on. We finished our meal and moved into the living room with mugs of eggnog and the plate of goodies. When we settled in near the fireplace, Josie asked if I still went to the same church.
The small country church was a few miles away. “Yes. In fact, I was there at five o’clock tonight with my family. That has been my favorite service forever. Singing carols, listening to the Christmas story. Then the ushers pass candles out to everyone. They go down the aisles and light the first person’s candle in each pew, and that person lights the next one’s, and down the line. When all the candles were lit, someone turned down the lights, except for the one on the manager scene by the altar. Then we sang, “Silent Night.”
Josie’s eyes filled with tears. “That sounds really special.”
I set my mug on the coffee table, got up and grabbed Smoke’s acoustic guitar from the corner. When I handed it to him, he half-grinned and raised his eyebrows. “What’s this for?”
He pulled out the pick tucked in the strings, slid his body to the edge of the couch, and moved the guitar into position. “I’ll play, if you’ll sing.”
“Josie, Travis, you know the words?” I asked.
Josie nodded. “We don’t do a lot of singing, though.”
I chuckled. “Then you are in good company.”
Smoke strummed an intro, and we sang, “Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright . . .” I closed my eyes to appreciate more fully the way our voices blended. Smoke with his deep base, Travis and his mellow tenor, Josie’s sweet soprano, and my alto.
All was calm and bright that holy night with more mystical joy then I could have imagined.
Latest Book Launched November, 2019
I had a number of book signings and we sold a lot. If you’ve read and enjoyed the book–of any of my books–I’d greatly appreciate a few review words on one or more platforms, i.e, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Nobel. Thank you!
A brief description:
Bodies marked with religious symbols are recovered from Coyote Bodies sending Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Smoke Dawes on a quest. Who buried them in the bog? They pore through missing persons’ files, consult an FBI profiler, and are soon in pursuit of an angel of death. Their investigation leads them into uncharted and dangerous territory, but they’ll stop at nothing until they end the death angel’s reign.
What reviewers are saying:
“Fascinates with a touch of Stephen King offset by doses of Midwest pragmatism.” ~Priscilla Paton, author, Twin Cities Mysteries including 2018 Foreword Indies Finalist Where Privacy Dies.
“Gives us assurance that in the dark recesses of a horrible crime, there are good people fighting for justice.” ~Colin Nelson, author, Flashover, The Amygdala Hijack, The Inca Code, and Ivory Lust.
“Race to catch a demented killer preying on society’s most weak and vulnerable. Both heart pounding and heartbreaking – another winner from Christine Husom.” ~Timya Owen, author and editor, Dark Side of the Loon, Twin Cities Sisters in Crime President.
“Cements Corky Aleckson’s position as a first-rate investigator and opens the window wider into her personal life.” ~Amy Pendino, multiple-award winning author, The Witness Tree.
“I was holding my breath the last third of the book. Each volume is more intriguing.” ~Rhonda Gilliland, author and editor, Cooked to Death Series.
“Corky leads her team as they investigate bodies hauled from Coyote Bog. Another great book in the series.” ~Barbara Schlichting, author, White House Dollhouse mystery series.