First Lines Friday (8) @08025writes @brwpublisher

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature
for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words.
What if instead of judging a book by its
cover, its author or its prestige, we judged
it by its opening lines?

Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your
current read or on your TBR) and open to
the first page. Copy the first few lines, but don’t
give anything else about the book away
just yet – you need to hook the reader first
Finally… reveal the book!



The sun began its afternoon descent and dusk brought with it a bonenumbing cold. The gusts of wind that accompanied it just added insult to injury. The cold crept between Kathleen’s ribs, caressing her heart, her lungs. Those same gusts whistled through the dilapidated shed’s walls as if made of cardboard and tar paper. The smell of smoke and moisture hung in the air. It all signaled the impending nor’easter was on final approach and there would be no rest this evening for the weary. The primary task would be to keep the small wood stove stoked through the night and well into the dawn hours. It would require more of Kathleen’s attention and fuel than the previous two nights, but the stove was her only source of heat and light in the cramped shed. Add in the expected steep drop in temperature tonight, her infant daughter, Evelyn, would need both to survive. Kathleen lugged firewood in from the outside pile over the late morning hours. The pathway took her around the large pig pen, then along the backside of the barn and to the opposite corner where wood deemed not worthy of burning in the main house was discarded. The ground was hazardous, uneven in most spots and filled with mud ruts frozen in place. The route was too treacherous to navigate for someone who had given birth less than forty-eight hours ago. Kathleen then spent the afternoon trying to shore up the uneven boards that made up her home’s walls. She searched the old barn for newspapers, rags, or anything else she could find to fill the large cracks between the planks of half rotted wood. She addressed what areas she could reach and said a prayer that the snow the incoming storm brought would not collapse the roof.

Kathleen’s living space was only eight feet by eight feet and that, she thought, was being generous. The day’s work had resulted in a stack of firewood that took up most of the wall to her left and for the moment was close to chin high. It would shrink considerably during the night, and force Kathleen out into the snow the next morning to replenish it.

It should do for the night, Kathleen thought. That is all I can concern myself with now. There will be time between chores in the morning to worry. Her right hand unconsciously reached up and gripped the silver cross that hung from her neck and gave it a tight squeeze.

As for the rest of the living space, against the far wall, opposite the door, sat an army cot with an old wicker baby bassinet perched atop it. The paint was peeling and the side strips were beginning to fray, but like the shed; it was part of their temporary home. The constant cries of hunger and cold that emanated from Evelyn served as a reminder of why the upcoming storm could only take up so much of Kathleen’s attention. She had to stay strong for her daughter.

A few more days, she kept repeating to herself, reaching down to pull Evelyn close to her chest. A few more then we can be on our way, away from this godforsaken place and town. 


The Pine Barrens Stratagem
From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish
Ken Harris
Black Rose Writing, January 2022

From the publisher—

Private Investigator Steve Rockfish needs cash, like yesterday. The bad news is that yesterday, a global pandemic raged, and Maryland was headed toward a lockdown that would ultimately lead to cheating spouses no longer “working late,” and hence a lack of new clients.

Rockfish’s luck changes when a Hollywood producer reaches out, but the job is two states away and involves digging up information on a child trafficking ring from the 1940s. What he uncovers will be used to support the launch of a true crime docuseries. He grabs a mask, hand sanitizer and heads for South Jersey.

On-site, Rockfish meets Jawnie McGee, the great granddaughter of a local policeman gone missing while investigating the original crimes. As the duo uncover more clues, they learn the same criminal alliance has reformed to use the pandemic as a conduit to defraud the Federal Government of that sweet, sweet, stimulus money.

It’s not long before the investigation turns up some key intel on a myriad of illicit activity over the last eighty years and Rockfish rockets toward a showdown with the mafia, local archdiocese and dirty cops. COVID-19 isn’t the only threat to his health.