thrilling and inspiring stories

Lovers, Liars, Secrets & Murders
A couple fights crime... and their desires in these mystery books. Read them in any order. Begin with your favorite color.
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Mystery: Was the murder for love or money?
Harry Bittercress, a former army MP, struggles to succeed as a private detective. So far, he's only worked on domestic cases, background checks, and insurance claims. He laments that lackluster record to his wife, Cardamine, over black coffee and toast slathered with clover honey (a breakfast habit bordering on obsession). "To make a name for myself, I gotta find a good murder!"
Harry gets his chance when he and the missus attend an election-night party. The year is 1952, the dawn of post-war America: Eddie Fisher crooning, the Red Scare, moleskin pants, taffeta dresses, Singin' in the Rain, polio, radio, Ford Mercury Monterey coupes, and atomic energy. Oh, and something even more explosive: teen energy. The changing nation's future seemed uncertain.
But some things never change. Murder, for instance. It rears its ugly head at the party. The family, their guests and the household staff are all suspects. It's up to Harry and Cardamine to figure out whodunnit — before anyone else dies.

Mystery: Why did the killer do it?
Harry Bittercress, a private eye, and his wife Cardamine, a psychic advisor, are thrilled as they prepare to journey overnight by train to the Queen City World's Fair. But thrills become chills when someone is murdered in the sleeper compartment next to theirs.
Motives abound from the salacious (jealous and jilted lovers) to the mundane (industrial espionage and professional hatred) making everyone on board a suspect. It's up to Harry to track down this killer. Will he make the grade? Or get derailed? Come aboard and find out, if you dare.

Mystery: How could the killing go unseen?
At an after-dinner dance amid music and merriment, the tempo stops with the flash and bang of a pistol going off. A man is shot dead — a daring act of murder in close quarters. It shouldn't take long for Harry Bittercress, a private eye, to finger the killer. But he's not there; his wife Cardamine is. It's up to her to help the authorities follow clues, avoid red herrings, and nab the killer.
But like a tango, this case takes a quick turn. She becomes the prey and must run a maze of death to escape a killer. Don't be a wallflower; get onto the dance floor with Cardamine. But watch out for Death cutting in.

Mystery: Can a murder happen twice?
Menacing tokens of doom appear at a woodland resort: a noose in the attic, blood in the lobby, and an open grave in the cellar. The only thing missing? A corpse. But for how long?
Guests gaily dismiss these incidents as Halloween pranks, but not everyone is so sure. Someone knows that current events echo a previous, undiscovered murder.
Private eye, Harry Bittercress, and his psychic wife, Cardamine, must uncover and solve that murder to have any hope of averting another.

Mystery: Is he missing or dead?
Private eye Harry Bittercress is shivering through a February afternoon in his poorly heated office when, like a hiss from his leaky radiator, in strolls a steamy sexpot from his past.
She tests Harry’s morals while retaining him to find her missing brother’s body, convinced that he was murdered by his wife. But she meanwhile insists her husband isn’t dead. “He ran off with some floozy.”
Is it murder or not? Harry isn’t sure. He must get to the bottom of that mystery while avoiding death himself.

Mystery: Was it an accident or murder?
Hazel killed Dr. Julius. Cut his head clean off! Or did she? Hazel was a category 4 hurricane that hit the Carolinas and Virginia in the fall of 1954. In its wake, scores of people lay maimed and dead. In the harried days of recovery, Virginia's Fluvanna County coroner ruled Dr. Julius' death an "act of God."
But some in his family didn't hold the Almighty culpable. They thought it was murder. "Hazel didn't do it! Someone killed him!" the doctor's daughter insisted in her plea to Harry Bittercress, a private eye, to investigate the matter, one the police considered closed. Harry was skeptical, but how could he turn her down? She was just 9 years old.

Mystery: Who had motive, means and opportunity?
An explosion at a copper mill kills a worker. Authorities identify a buildup of nitrates as the cause; they rule the death “accidental.” But the man’s widow is sure it’s premeditated murder. She implores a newspaper reporter to investigate and get to the bottom of it. He agrees but needs help.
So he partners with Harry Bittercress, a private eye, to work all the angles and suss out likely suspects. They find many. Too many. “There ain’t hardly anyone who don’t wanna ‘off’ the victim,” Harry remarks.
Can they narrow that large field of suspects to the lone culprit? It won’t be easy.

Mystery: What's the deadly connection?
An unlikely group of burglars and their ringleader loot the vault at Commonwealth Bank & Trust. They pull it off without a hitch. Almost. A clue is found at the scene and a night guard is killed — bludgeoned to death. Police interrogate suspects but nobody cracks. Do they have the wrong suspects? Is the clue a red herring?
A year later, no one's under arrest, the money hasn't surfaced, and the guard lies unavenged in his grave. "I want you to find his killer and the stolen money!" the bank president tells Harry Bittercress, a private eye. Can he do what the police couldn’t? Maybe so, but not without "help" from his wife, Cardamine — whether he wants it or not.

Mystery: Will the truth be unearthed?
A builder wants to develop valuable land "wasted" as a pet cemetery. The eccentric owner refuses to sell, citing a moral duty to his "friends" (the buried pets). But his daughter and son aren't so sentimental. Behind their father's back, they ink a deal, collect a hefty payment, and plan to put Dad "away." But everything falls apart when the money goes missing.
They hire Harry to find it. Tipped off that the money may be buried, he grabs a shovel and digs for it. But he finds more: a body bludgeoned to death with that very shovel. "Eww."

Mystery: Can an unstoppable murder be stopped?
After gaining fanfare for cracking the sensational Madison Murder case, Harry Bittercress, a former army MP, sees his private eye career take off. "Good cases are finally comin' my way!" he enthuses to Cardamine, his wife of nearly seven years. She's an American-born, Oxford-educated woman of British and Jamaican parentage — atypical for Virginia of the 1950s. But it doesn't end there.
When housework is done, she doesn't pick up the Ladies Home Journal; she pores over literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical science journals. Oh, and did I mention she makes a living as a psychic reader and advisor? Like I said: atypical.
Cardamine counterbalances Harry's street smarts and roughhewn gumshoe work with her keen intellect and encyclopedialike knowledge. He's going to need her help when an oddball case comes in over the transom: solving a murder that hasn't happened yet! His client calmly states, "Someone's going to kill me. Afterwards, I want you to catch him."

Mystery: Is there a "bear" naked murderer?
Harry Bittercress, a private eye, takes his wife Cardamine to a countryside retreat, not telling her it's for an undercover investigation. And he's likely to get killed. No, not by a criminal, but by his wife when she realizes they're at a clothing-optional "art colony." But Harry laughs that off and begins investigating an insurance fraud case. Just routine — or so he thinks.
Meanwhile, Cardamine, idle and free-spirited, cozies up to the colony's artists ("screwballs," if you ask Harry). With derring-do, she attends an in-the-buff poetry reading. It'll be OK, she reasons, Harry will never know — or so she thinks.
Meanwhile, when Harry goes fishing, he reels in a human skull with a bullet hole in it. Thus, a "routine" case of insurance fraud becomes one of murder. Who's the victim? Who's the killer? And who wants Harry dead before finding out?

Mystery: Who committed an impossible murder?
The impossible happens when the matron of a stately but ghostly manor is found murdered in a windowless room locked from inside, but the killer is not there. How’d they get out?
“By floating through solid matter!” the family explains, blaming the heinous crime on a vengeful spirit whom they insist haunts their eerie house.
“A ghost?!” The police laugh that off, but they’re stumped to find a rational explanation — or the killer. So the family hires private detective Harry Bittercress and his psychic wife to catch the killer.
With her otherworldly senses and his real-world sleuthing, will they solve this locked room mystery — or be spooked to death trying?


The Sundered Muse
Neal Enrick, Author
Epic fantasy trilogy à la Tolkien
A talented troupe of street performers ply the towns and kingdoms of an alternate Middle Ages, secretly fighting the Red King who, with his disarmingly handsome son, the Red Prince, are plotting world conquest. The troupe's showmaster is one of The Thirteen, a band of mentalist leaders charged with subduing the Red Monarchy and fulfilling a centuries-old prophesy of a worldwide golden age.
Key to that achievement is finding six hidden women, daughters of the Red Prince, each unknowing their true parentage and kinship. They, when found and brought together, are foretold to manifest a heretofore unknown power to bring about the downfall of their grandfather, the Red King.
If The Thirteen succeed in uniting the six sisters, will their power be focused or uncontrollable? And is the Red Prince secretly plotting to use it for his own ends? Unbeknownst to all is a second secret organization, a rival to The Thirteen, whose machinations are both cunning and visceral. Neither group knows the Red King has a secret weapon he is about to unleash on the world. Will it make him unstoppable?
Amid this tumult, a beautiful but diabolical princess in a kingdom threatened by the Red King, plots her own rise to world domination. She will collude, cajole, seduce and kill in her quest to become queen, not only of her own land, but of the entire world of Vælentz.




Lands, leaders & legends
The World — Vælentz (pronounced VAY-lents) is a world both grand and granular. Layers of history, culture and ideas imbue its people and lands with the makings of powerful and colorful storytelling. The reader will meet many characters and explore the places and events affecting their world. That richness comes gradually and naturally, like life itself. The characters develop in ordinary though not always expected ways, sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling, while being both the causes and effects of sweeping, portentous proceedings. Friendships form and break, endeavors succeed and fail, love is won and lost, all of it without ever becoming trite or predictable. All the while, the fates of six kingdoms hang in the balance. My writing seeks not merely to tell a story, but to swath the reader within it.
Alternate Middle Ages — This work's setting is akin to 14th Century Europe. Oxen are the sole beasts of burden, iron is the strongest metal, while windmills and waterwheels are the only artificial power sources. I consider Vælentz to be an alternate mediæval world with some anachronistic inclusions and exclusions to simplify the milieu. Despite this old-world setting, my themes are modern, serious, and mature, being easily relevant to one's life today. But I also include childlike and whimsical elements, such as fables and colloquialisms, which soften the seriousness.
Geography-cum-Literature — Departing from customary practice, I outlined this epic trilogy not in words as is usually the case, but instead as a geographic drawing. Penciled lines and shadings on paper steadily became a map. Six kingdoms formed without conscious thought. Then four realms appeared. Next came mountains and highlands. Streams flowed down to become rivers. Those waterways emptied into lakes, wetlands, and perhaps as-yet-unknown seas. Vast tracts divided themselves into grasslands and woodlands—some bountiful, some wildly exotic, others lifeless. Not to be left out, mighty volcanoes erupted, while harsh deserts encroached upon the map's outskirts. Placed within this geography were animals, both wild and tame, each with its own ambit. These beasts proved both helpful and harmful to the beings whom I then incarnated.
Beings — I imagined five races peopling this landscape. They formed kingdoms and realms, built hamlets, towns and cities, along with mediæval urban accoutrements like fortifications, bridges, tunnels and soaring towers. Natural borders ensured nascent nations developed distinct cultures and norms. But as populations grew, distinctness became blurred by migration, resource exploitation and conquest. Some stabilizing factors counterbalanced this disorder. Societies, guilds, and religions cohered the peoples, both within borders and across them, giving regularity to people's lives. Professions and industries developed and flourished, as did commercial trade, which furthered the steadying effects of economic relationships and cross-border ties. After several generations, the kingdoms and realms matured into relatively stable, peaceful lands. All except for one hermetic kingdom, that threatened the world like a ticking time bomb.
Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) — There is no magic or mysticism per se in Vælentz, but I do introduce rare emergences of psychic abilities in some beings. This capacity is minimal and never overwhelms the story.

Explore the world
Fantasy World Map

Neal Enrick, Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neal Enrick is a best-selling writer of mystery, suspense and mythic intrigue novels. A student of sociology, group dynamics, history and art, he enjoys reading biographies, adventure novels, art history books, sci-fi works, and fantasy epics. He augments these intellectual pursuits through travel to 50+ countries with a special focus on Central America, Europe and the Middle East. Thereby, Mr. Enrick can bring a worldliness to his novels with an authentic and approachable style that both engages and mystifies. —Smythe Hawley Media | Contact the author: [email protected]

Neal Enrick on Writing Murder Mysteries

I tell everyone who asks that book writing is harder than it looks — and writing murder mysteries is even harder.
Foremost is conceiving the murder itself. Who's the victim? Who's the perpetrator? And what's the means (weapon)? If this sounds a bit like the boardgame Clue, it is, but far lager in scope: there are motives to consider, reactions, repercussions and, of course, a detective or two who are "characters" in their own right. All these details must be fleshed out and it all has to make sense. Why would a father strangle his son? What could make a woman bludgeon a neighbor? Why would a doctor poison her patient? Or, more unconscionable, what would motivate a kid to stab a schoolmate? Obviously, imagination and creativity are required — not to mention a morbid mind's eye. But the requirements don't end there.
A plot must be developed, and I don't just mean the murder plot — though that is necessary — I mean the story's plot. Where does the action take place? And when? What is the era like? For instance, my mysteries are set in the 1950s and early '60s. The Cold War was raging. The Space Age began. Rockabilly spawned rock 'n' roll. Beatniks dominated popular culture. The sexual revolution simmered. Thus, story plots should consider all aspects of the era and particularly those directly pertinent to plot events. Good writers do that homework.
Suspects must be interrogated. Where were they at the time of the murder and prior thereto? Do they have alibis? Can those be corroborated? What are their accounts of the murder and surrounding events? Does one suspect contradict another? Are differences deliberate misstatements or innocent mistakes? And, don’t forget, even truthful accounts can be inaccurate due to confusion, misunderstanding or even delusion. In any case, contradictions must be evaluated, investigated and, ultimately, resolved. Often these are the keys to successfully deductive reasoning.
Then there are the clues and their counterparts: red herrings. The writer must think them up and drop them here and there throughout the story, neither being too obvious nor overly obtuse. Crucially, the reader should be able to “solve” the mystery him/herself from the clues given, not be jarred by an inscrutable denouement (finale).
—Neal Enrick, [email protected]
Speaking of which, a classic mystery will end with the detective assembling the suspects; they will be circumspect, suspicious of each other and, above all, edge-of-the-seat focused on the detective's every word. He/she then goes over the case's details — possibly admitting to missteps, having been led astray, or simply missing an obvious clue — before announcing that, despite such missteps, the case is cracked. The murderer is thereafter revealed. The killer may react — or not. Likewise the suspects. And perhaps even the detective. After all, you the writer have put them through trying times. They're not going to come out of that unscathed.

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