Friday, March 1, 2024

Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mysteries - Books 1-5 Presented by Anna Celeste Burke!


Series--5 of 7

“What do you say, Peter? Can we do it?” “Commercial flights are booked until tomorrow morning, at the earliest. I found four seats on a flight leaving LAX at 6 a.m. which ought to get us in before 9 a.m.” 

“No! We’ve all got to go so when we find Frank he knows we all love him.” Tommy was beginning to flush and his eyes filled with tears. “Do something, Jessica!” “I can check on a charter, but that usually requires a little notice. Let me call Dad, first. Maybe he can arrange for us to use the corporate jet.” “Paul might be able to help, too,” Jerry suggested. “I’m not sure how happy he’ll be to rescue his rival for your affections, but he won’t let that stop him from doing the right thing.” “I don’t want to ask that of him. It puts him in an awkward situation with the firm, too. If he does a favor for one associate, he can’t very well refuse others. I’ll call Dad. He can help me figure this out.” “Do you think they’ll have room for us at Palma Dorado?” Tommy asked, vibrating with anxiety and excitement. “Please tell me they’ll let you bring your service dog along. 

You know what, Jerry? Dave and Timmy are in Cabo—they do shows in a nightclub down there. Maybe they have room for us and won’t mind a dog.” “I don’t believe it’s the dog they’ll mind,” Jerry said, and then caught himself when Tommy put both hands on his hips. “We’re going there on business—maybe dangerous business—even if we take precautions. We don’t want to get friends in trouble, do we?” Before the debate could continue, I spoke up. 

“We stick together. We keep our mouths shut about why we’re in Cabo even if we run into people we know. Palma Dorado will accommodate pets—in their villas—not at the resort hotel.” “A villa would be good, right? You can probably squeeze most of us in there, so we might only need one or two.” He didn’t wait for an answer but turned to Anastasia. “Did you hear that? Your momma’s going to get us a villa.” Then he started to sing that old Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby song, South of the Border, Scott had mentioned. Holding out one hand for Anastasia, she hopped up onto her hind legs, and stepped along beside Tommy as he danced. “Thomas, this isn’t a vacation. You need to settle down,” Bernadette didn’t have a knife in her hand, but she was wagging a big wooden spoon she’d brought with her from the kitchen when she heard the excitement going on in the situation room. “He won’t be like this all the way to Cabo, will he?” Laura asked. “Not if he knows what’s good for him. Bernadette will toss him out of the jet somewhere over the Sea of Cortez and let him swim the rest of the way.” “Go home and pack while Jessica makes the arrangements,” Bernadette chided. 

“Pack? Why? At a place like Palma Dorado, they’ll have everything we need. We know this isn’t a vacation, but we don’t want to create suspicion. We’ll blow our cover if we don’t go shopping, to the spa, the nightclubs, and…” “That’s enough, Tommy!” Tommy’s eyes and mouth flew open at the tone in Jerry’s voice. I was shocked, too. That was the first time I’d ever heard Jerry speak to Tommy in that way. I held my breath, waiting for a tantrum or a crying jag. Instead, Tommy suddenly settled down. “You’re right. I’ll sleep in a tent on the beach. Can we please just bring Frank home before they kill him—his fellow cops—not the frigging drug lords.” “I’m going to see what kind of arrangements I can make for support. If Mik and his pals believe taking off for Mexico is their get out of jail free card, they’re wrong, Tommy. There’s plenty of corruption among the Mexican police, but they don’t want our fugitives from justice any more than we want theirs. They’ve got all the dirty cops they need. 

When it comes to tracking fugitives from the U.S., they’ve been very cooperative in the past few years. Trust me on that. I’ll check to see if the feds have issued warrants for the arrest of Mik and Eckhardt—for Jenkins, too, now that we know he was the fourth man in the crew that picked up Frank Saturday morning. Heck, let them arrest Frank, too, if that’s what it takes to extricate him from Baja.” “Even if they haven’t issued arrest warrants, they ought to be willing to subpoena all of them as witnesses to crimes committed during the operation of the drug ring. We could get Frank out of there that way, too.” Peter nodded, enthusiastically. “Okay, I’ll bring that up if I need to.” “If that doesn’t work, maybe I can get Dick Tatum to help us. He just texted me that the post mortems for both Toby Foster and Jeff Baker identified marks as being left by Mik’s ring. In an earlier complaint filed by Toby Foster, hospital staff took photos documenting the same bruises which Foster told them Mik had caused. No arrest warrant was ever issued since Foster died not long after that and his death was ruled an accidental overdose. Dick can ask for that to be done now on behalf of both dead men. At least Harry Mik won’t go free.” “Why not get Dick moving on it? It can’t hurt to have another warrant out for a man like Mik. 

Do you want everyone to go home and pack? We won’t need much since if we can’t find Frank in a day or two, we ought to come home and put together another plan. If, and when we do find Frank, he’s going to want to get out of there ASAP.” “I’ll book the villas for three nights. If we want to leave before then, we’ll do it. Will you want to bring a team with you?” 

“Let me worry about that after I speak with the feds and see what they’re willing to do,” Peter responded. “You’ve got your hands full finding accommodations for us.” “Do you think this resets our seventy-two-hour clock?” I wondered if bumping up against that limit was behind Peter’s concern about keeping our visit short. “Maybe, but we’re only halfway through that clock anyway. I don’t want to tell too many people about this, but Don, Dick Tatum, and George Hernandez need to know. Someone’s going to have to babysit while we’re gone.” “Unless the feds are willing to come and pick up our houseguests. Is there any way they can reunite Scott with his family members? Federal protective custody is a good idea for him if it can be arranged.” “That’s a great solution for Scott, Jessica. I’ll raise the subject in a ‘what if’ kind of way. Who knows how long that might take to arrange, though.” I suddenly realized how silent it had become in the situation room as Peter and I hashed things out. 

“So?” Laura asked. “I don’t believe anyone should leave.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that wouldn’t work. “Shoot! Do you all have passports? Are they up-to-date?” I heard a chorus of “yeses.” “You’ve got to go get them. How should we handle this, Peter? The last thing we need right now is to have one of our cats get nabbed by a fleeing rat. We haven’t changed our clothes or showered or anything like that. Maybe everyone needs to go home.” “We’ve got a laundry room to wash and dry clothes. There are bathrobes in all the closets and plenty of toiletries. I don’t see any reason we can’t all be cleaned up and ready to go in a couple of hours. Do you?” Bernadette looked around the room. That summoned a resounding round of “nos.” “I’ll go shower right now,” Laura said. “Can I borrow a t-shirt and sweats?” “Sure. You can, too, Kim. Tommy’s right, though. We can shop when we get to the resort if it’s not too late.” “Yes!” Tommy said. “If you guys strip down, I’ll wash and dry our clothes. Sorry, I don’t iron, as Jerry already knows.” “Wrinkles don’t bother him for some reason.” “There’s an iron and ironing board in the laundry room if the ‘wrinkle free’ cycle on the dryer doesn’t do it for you,” I suggested. “Once I’m cleaned up, why don’t you all give me your keys, tell me where your passports are, and one of Peter’s guys can escort me to collect them. Are they easy to find?” Jerry, one of the most well-organized among us, piped up immediately. Kim and Brien took a little longer. Heck, I needed a minute to remember where I’d stashed mine. 

“That’ll take a while, but at least it’ll keep everyone from scattering in different directions,” I mumbled, trying to figure out if there was a better way to do this. “I can’t come up with a better idea. Brien could escort you if he didn’t have to wait for Tommy to wash his clothes. I have swim trunks, but other than that, there’s nothing in the house that’ll fit him.” Brien took that as a cue to strike a bodybuilder pose. I shook my head. “Peter, if you can spare someone, let’s go for it!” “I like the idea, although Laura doesn’t need to leave. All my associates are bonded and licensed by the state. You can trust them to go through your stuff. Keys, please. Write down where the documents are supposed to be—add your phone number in case there’s a problem.” 

“Post-it note time!” Tommy sprang into action, leaping down the hall as if he were Nureyev. Anastasia bounded after him. We all stared for a good thirty seconds before Bernadette took charge. “That’s a yes, Peter. I’m already cleaned up, so I’m fixing lunch. Jessica, get busy with the flight and the hotel! I know where our passports are.” “Aye-aye!” I said, saluting Bernadette as she bustled off and I called Dad. I’d hardly finished explaining what we needed before he put me on hold. “Wheels up in less than an hour. The plane will be at the Jackie Cochran by two at the latest. They’ll file a flight plan if you tell me when you want to leave. It’s not a very long fight. If you leave by four or five, you should arrive at the resort in time for a late dinner. Someone at Palma Dorado should be able to tell you if Frank’s there. You have a recent picture of him, right?” “I do. Thanks so much, Dad. I hope you’re right that someone recognizes Frank, tells us which suite he’s in, and we can take him along to dinner. A piece of cake, right?” I started to fidget. Soon, I’d be bouncing like Tommy. Anastasia was on the job, though, putting her head in my lap and looking up at me with her soulful eyes to calm me down. “Let’s hope so. Don’t do anything stupid. Let Peter and the people he enlists do the heavy-lifting on this one. 

No guns! The Mexican police won’t be as lenient as George Hernandez on Bernadette or anyone else in your party who brandishes a gun—even if they don’t fire it wildly!” “Bernadette’s learned her lesson. I don’t want anyone to do anything that might get Frank shot. George is in the loop. Don will be soon, and Peter’s on the phone to los federales and whoever else they suggest we speak to—maybe even someone with the Mexican police who specializes in finding U.S. fugitives. It’ll be hard to make a move without advice from a member of law enforcement. Hopefully, not an untrustworthy swine like the guys with Frank.” “I hope that also means if Peter’s contacts tell you stay put in Rancho Mirage, you’ll do it.” I didn’t even want to suggest that option to Tommy. “Don’t worry. We’ll do as we’re told.” I crossed my fingers. “Sure, you will. If anything goes wrong, your mother will never let me forget it. Please don’t break my heart, Jinx.” My eyes teared up when he used that silly nickname derived from Jessica Alexis. It was a holdover from a childish demand I’d made when I learned Dad’s real name was Henry even though everyone always called him Hank. I hoped my current idea to take the entire Cat Pack to find Frank wasn’t as ridiculous as that one. “I’ll be careful, and I do listen to Peter.” I hadn’t made a reservation anywhere in Cabo yet. Arriving on a Sunday night, we’d be able to find rooms somewhere—even if the resort was booked. “Please ask the crew to plan for a four o’clock departure. We’ll be there by three-thirty at the latest.” “Will do. Love you!” “Me, too. Thanks, Dad—especially for making this happen at the last minute.” 

“I’d appreciate more notice when you invite me to the wedding.” “Wedding? What wedding?” I heard him laugh as he hung up. My face burned as I recalled Frank’s declaration of love, written with passion and determination in the note he’d left with his dad. No doubt, in a moment moment when he was profoundly disturbed at the prospect of losing everything, including his life. I hesitated to take his words seriously, even as my heart pounded furiously. “Earth to Jessica. This is Tommy calling!” Tommy stood in front of me in a bathrobe with a towel wrapped around his head. He undid the towel and drooped it over his shoulders, leaving his red hair standing up on end. “Did you say we’re leaving at four?” “That’s the plan.” He leaned in and kissed me all over my face. Anastasia loved it and wanted in on the lovefest. “Stop it, Tommy. You’re wet!” “You should be too—go! We’ve got a schedule to keep. 

We’re going to get Cousin Frank back, aren’t we, wonder dog?” Tommy did a little kick and then stepped around in a circle. Anastasia did the same—perfectly in sync. I stared in amazement as I called Palma Dorado. “Reservations, please.”


I don't really like book sets for review purposes... But they are so handy for a binge read of series books that I sometimes choose the ultimate reading experience, just for the fun it provides... Readers get to meet the characters, in particular, in the very first book and after that, we know enough about each that we can sink further and further into "who" the characters are... This author, however, has done something better, potential reviewers are able to preview each of her series books available on YouTube... Because of this, I'll just be talking about the final book... The Dead Cousin... in this set.

Jessica Huntington begins the series as a recently divorced woman who found her husband cheating with another their bed! Throughout the series, Jessica will have to deal with her ex and his new wife over and over until in this set, both her ex and his wife are heading to prison... And what an open marriage they had as the movie star wife creates chaos in public...and more... That might have been a little "payback" of relief for Jessica, IF she was not also in those same news papers talking about her, as if the two women were vying for attention and loyalty of the man who had been husband to both of them.

Jessica really wanted nothing to do with this couple, can you blame her? But as she began to get back into her own personal life, as a lawyer, she was caught becoming an amateur detective for murder cases happening in families of her clients... And they wanted Jessica's help. By the time of the second book, Jessica had willingly accepted her new role, even, pulling together her friends--and their friends--into what they called a Cat Pack... She lived in Cathedral City, added that to the once musical team pulled together as friends... and wound up having a Cat Pack, which, later, by the way, will have an animal join the group...but he's a Dog... LOL You'll love what happens when the Dog visits a club in Mexico!

Jessica is rich, so rich that she has a credit card that none of us will ever own... And, when she is distressed, trying to deal with her divorce, especially, she goes on shopping binges... for her as well as all of her friends. Being rich does one thing that we see happening through the series, she is able to work to provide justice for the families of those who were dead due to violence... Bernadette, her friend and long-term house manager, slowly is helping her through the trauma and has introduced her to a local priest who is counseling her about the use of money that cannot really solve her emotional needs...

Each of the books has a death of a family member, not necessarily of Huntington. As the series continues, Jessica begins to be interested in the opposite sex again--it took some time to get rid of the image of her husband in HER bed with another woman. But the first man she was attracted to happened to be gay, and, at that time, we learn more about Tommy who was the brother of a woman who had been murdered. He and Jessica came together in sorrow and Tommy looked to Jessica for the attention he had lost from his sister. Needless to say that both Tommy and Jerry became a part of the Cat Pack...

Then Jessica had the opportunity to work in a new lawyer's office opening in her area and was attracted to the man who had hired her... While at the same time, she reconnects to a local long-time friend... Readers watch as she becomes involved with...both... and then struggles with her own emotions as she knows that she doesn't want to hurt either one, but she just is Perhaps her past disaster with her Ex is the reason she is unable to commit...

Each of these books are uniquely different than the standard amateur detective books. First, because the Cat Pack keeps increasing as special skills are needed from one person or another, it seems they want to stay in the Pack! No wonder! Meetings normally have delicious food which is provided by Bernadette or catered... And, if a road trip is needed to solve the case, Jessica foots the bill for the entire Pack! But, I hasten to point out. Those who work with her are not moochers--well, maybe one or two seem to be at first, the pool boy, for instance who is always looking for something to eat--but are able to provide their special skills to meeting the needs of the team...

In fact, the last book involves a hesitant, but definitely a member of the team, simply because he's interested in Jessica... And when he is kidnapped, Jessica will stop at nothing to bring him back! And that, indeed, involves renting a villa in Mexico and taking the Pack who always seem hungry, needing clothes to complement their newest caper, and working hard to ensure that every single murder mystery is solved and completely explained for the readers' satisfaction.

Get the idea that I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful, but deep-dive series into how relatives are caught in a devastating loss and need help to find justice... And, find that the Cat Pack is who you're gonna call! Definitely a Winner!


No comments:

Post a Comment